Early in his school years a teacher stated to my son that if he didn’t sit down on his chair, which he never did, she would take it away. He said, “Okay!” handed in his chair and continued to happily stand for the remainder of the year.
In seventh grade he failed to tell me there were any sort of sign ups for sports. It wasn’t until nearly Christmas when I clued in he was fairly free after school and there hadn’t been any sort of after school sign ups. When asked about it he said, “Oh yeah. I didn’t sign up. I don’t want to play sports.”
When the other kids were outside running around the neighbourhood my boy was filming them with a video camera. When they went inside for dinner, he took his spot behind the computer screen and edited it all into a little montage complete with title sequence and closing credits.
His days were spent writing scripts for plays that he could never rally enough kids to actually participate in. His nights were spent with his nose buried deep in books.
In eighth grade he begged for piano lessons.
All along I couldn’t help but think – who is this kid? While I loved every facet of what he was doing and the creative things he was pouring himself into, I also worried. Because kids need an outlet and when the outlet is creativity and not sports, they don’t necessarily fit in naturally at school.
I’m so thankful for a teacher who told me, when he was still so young, this kid of mine – he was an outside the box thinker and school wouldn’t necessarily be the place he shone. She understood a regular sit, read, answer questions curriculum didn’t resonate with him, though we also agreed sometimes you have to do the things you don’t love in order to learn important facts.
She told me to get him through. Don’t worry myself too much with grades. He’ll do big things once he’s out of school and off in the world where there is more to explore out from the confines of a desk. Where there’s a place for diving into your passions, creating things that are beautiful and where you might even find a few more people who think like you do.
That teacher saved me from years of questioning my parenting with her words. She clarified what I couldn’t. She told me that he would go places, that he would find his niche, probably a bit later in life because the younger school world didn’t cater to this type of kid.
I wrapped those words up as a gift and kept giving them to myself whenever I needed them. Whenever I worried about him. Whenever I felt like he just didn’t fit in.
Through middle school he stayed inside and read novels through lunch. He poured through Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and dove into cult favourites like A Wrinkle in Time, The Outsiders and soaked up characters like Holden Caufield in A Catcher in the Rye. I couldn’t keep up with his reading so I finally just had to let him troop on and choose what he liked.
Friends in the arts assured me that he’d be okay. As long as he had an outlet.
He found his outlet in writing. Every single night we’d find him curled up somewhere frantically typing out a new story. Or adding to his novel. Or casually saying, “Hey Mom, want to read my new poem?”
When your kid doesn’t fit the mould, when they don’t fit into categories of ‘normal’ or just do what all of their peers are doing, it can be difficult as a parent. We can wonder if they’re going to be okay. We can question if we’ve done it all wrong. We can fear for their future.
17 1/2 years into this deal I’ve learned that he will be okay. I learned early that there’s nothing wrong with him. I learned to stop trying to make him answer questions the way I thought they should be answered. I learned that I didn’t need to explain why he wasn’t in sports to other parents. I learned not to worry because he’s different then his peers. It can be a hard place to parent a kid who’d rather discuss the latest character in a novel he’s read than the latest comic book hero and who thinks his generation is being ruined by every selfie posted and every meme made.
At 17 he doesn’t understand his generation. He feels like he’s been born in the wrong era and yet he knows that God made him for just such a time as this. To have no social media accounts in a world of snapchat. To write books in a sea of video game obsessed children. To wear jeans with rips made because he doesn’t care about fashion and his jeans have literally worn threadbare, not because rips are cool and so he needs the latest trends.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that he’d want out of high school as quickly as possible and that he’d choose to graduate early and get out of the place he deems all drama and narcissism. And it shouldn’t surprise me that he didn’t attend his graduation ceremony two nights ago when he should have been donning cap and gown and received his diploma.
“I don’t understand festivities,” was his answer. “So I finished classes I was supposed to finish – why does that need a celebration?”
So I have no photo of him walking across that stage or in his school colours and I’m totally fine with it. Because to have a kid like him, one who doesn’t follow the crowd, one who maintains strong convictions of who he is and what he believes, one who doesn’t care if everyone is doing it or not – well, that’s something special.
It’s such a privilege to raise each of our kids, mamas and dads – no matter what they’re like. Sure there are days we don’t get it, there are times we wish they would have said something different in public, there may even be times we’ve been embarrassed – but looking back at what I’ve learned from him and what I’m continuing to learn every day – I wouldn’t change it for anything.