Bragging Rights

IMG_2515“I had encephalitis contracted from one of the kids in my classroom the year before. It was terrible…” She went on to describe the scans and meds and her stay in ICU, as people are wont to do when they find out that I am a physician. 

Truthfully, I was only half listening, trying instead to keep one eye on my son to ensure he didn’t beat the crap out of one of the other kids as they ran back and forth playing laser tag. It wasn’t that he is mean. He is just bigger than everyone else and so very impulsive. When he feels uncomfortable socially, he becomes a super weird, out of control spazz which only makes things worse. If another kid is mean, it mortally wounds him. He will either lash out physically or verbally or be reduced to a sobbing mess. 

She was watching her own kids playing calmly in the distance. 

“My daughter is starting algebra from the new math teacher,” she said. “She’s only ten.”

I nodded, murmuring to show that I was impressed. 

Then, she said it: 

“Your son is destined for something great. Perhaps something in science. But it will be something great…” Her voice trailed off.

She was no longer his teacher. She didn’t have to say those words. But she did and they made my heart soar. In truth, I wanted to find a quiet room somewhere so I could have a good cry. 

His current teacher has made him his own desk by her at the front of the class. The remainder of the class desks are grouped into clusters of four. He is singled out and isolated. It IS necessary, but it bothers me that he is “that kid”. 

He sees and processes things differently, mirror image is just as natural to him with writing as the normal way is to everyone else. He is reading chapter books in kindergarten. His memory is frightening. 

Worksheets though are the bane of his existance. His mind wanders and he does not finish. The resulting hour and a half of homework each night is sucking out his soul. He loves to play, to build and create and draw, but there no time for that on school nights before bedtime.

Worst of all, he is starting to recognize that he is different and that truly breaks my heart….

If there is one thing a mother needs to hear it is that her children matter. That they are special. That they can attain greatness. That what she sees in them is real, not just magnified and blown out of proportion by love. It is especially meaningful when your kid is “different”.

Will he accomplish something great? I do not know. Attaining that sort of greatness generally involves suffering. I would rather spare him that. More than anything else I want him to be able to understand and demonstrate kindness, strength, love and to posses an abundance of joy. If he can have these things, his life will have been a success.


103 thoughts on “Bragging Rights

  1. I have a few kids like this who visit my farm, one on a regular basis and one is here for three months straight off the streets of Avignon, France. Every single one has found that little tap to kindness and peace through working with the animals. One loves the pigs, one will lie down with the cows and calves (she went to sleep in a huddle with a calf the day after she was tazed by the police for picking up a stick and shouting at them as she ran away from school – at 11yrs) . My French boy, my tall gangly hooligan is a bird boy. The birds (peacocks, turkeys) will come and sit on him. He is 17 and still screams in horror if I raise my voice. But works like crazy then sleeps for hours every afternoon. I have found that giving him lead time helps. It is the suddenness of a reprimand that causes the problem. My fourth son was like this, wild and kind but WILD, I took him off every single food colouring and processed sugar or processed food – this helped a LOT. But could not control what he ate all the time. He was turned around by a teacher when he was 12. Now he is a producer for film and presently one of the producers for the next Avatar. As a mother I think all we can do is hold our breaths though. Hold our breaths, talk about stuff when the child is calm and feeling good, and before a situation that may become a problem, then hope the talk works, dust them off, launch them through the door and hold our breaths some more. (Don’t faint from breath holding though). Incidentally my little French hooligan is the son of a Doctor. Some kids just need a LOT of physical activity and stimulation. But they can achieve greatness if we let them fly that way. Give them a million second chances and Not hold on too tight. Did you say how old your son is? c

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I just started following you so forgive me if you’ve already answered these questions before, but you mentioned in this post that your son sees a mirror image and he’s in Kindergarten. Has he undergone an assessment for a learning disability? Has he been diagnosed? I’m not sure about other parts of Canada but in Ontario we have to wait until grade 1 in order for children to get an assessment through the school. We can’t afford a private assessment.
    My 6 year old brought home a math assessment two days ago and he got an A on everything except the part where he had to write out 1 to 10. He got one right. Sometimes he writes as you mentioned “mirror image” or backwards, from right to left.
    I felt the pang, the crushed feeling and was right there with you on not wanting one’s child to be different, but I find that we can’t control everything and it’s best to highlight our children’s strengths. I’m with you 100% on your last statement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so wonderful. I can very much relate. last evening at parent-teacher conferences my stepson, reading from a sheet they had completed in class, stated that the one thing he wishes everyone knew about him is that he knows he “doesn’t fit in” with the other kids. I just wanted to hug him- but refrained at the moment- as he is now 12. πŸ™‚

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  4. Your little guy sounds so much like mine. And yep, I found out at the recent conference that he’s in a desk by himself while the others are in groups. His teacher is really trying to help, though, and always has something kind or positive to say, even on his bad days, which I greatly appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A wonderful posting, thanks. A few years back, a student of mine was going from New Zealand to London UK with his parents for two weeks. His other teachers demanded I set work for him to do while he was away – it was during term time. I set the task for him: “Enjoy London!” I still remember one teacher saying: “How’s he going to get educated?” All the best for your son NOT always doing the work sheet!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. He’s only 6, Victo. He’s probably so far beyond the other kids intellectually that he gets bored waiting for them to catch up. He needs to grow into his intelligence, I think. I believe he will achieve greatness, and he’s going to do it his way, not by toeing every line to make the teachers happy.

    It reminds me of the Neil Diamond song, Brooklyn Roads, where the teacher complains that a child has a good head but doesn’t apply himself – “I’d build me a castle with dragons and kings, and I’d ride off with them as I stood by my window …”

    I think people want way too much from kindergartners and first graders these days. At that age, all I wanted to do was play with my dolls. No one expected me to act like 24-year-old graduate student when I was only in kindergarten.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “More than anything else I want him to be able to understand and demonstrate kindness, strength, love and to posses an abundance of joy. If he can have these things, his life will have been a success.

    Yes, this is exactly what I want for my kids as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My NSLM is too dann smart for his own good. He’s so smart he’s lazy. Worksheets are like bamboo shoots under his nails, bless him. But he’s had an IEP in place and it’s helped, and he has an AMAZING special ed teacher that has helped all through school. We encourage him to be an individual and happy in whatever he does.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d look for another way to meet his school requirement. No, not homeschooling. But I have known parents who made deals that their kid could do something else, and had a tutor to take them way beyond what the class was doing. Others have found private schools for special, or gifted kids. My child used a cardboard to create his own study place, but getting into more challenging classes finally made all the difference. Some teachers loved my boy, others just wanted him drugged. Your boy is lucky you are his Mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. One good thing is that they know more now than they did before about different learning styles, and how to work with everyone, not just those who learn in a traditional way. Of course your son is special, and he will do great things, whether he helps animals or swabs the deck of a great pirate ship (I still believe in pirates, but not the mean kind, the robin hood kind.) I don’t know why those two choices came to me, but they did.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Encourage his differences!

    Lincoln was different!
    Einstein was different!
    Mister Rogers was different!
    Mother Teresa was different!


    I am looking forward to celebrating his differences and wonderful discoveries about life!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This post hurt – a lot. I have one too … he’s now 27.

    He’s been different from day 1 – very introverted, very observant, incredibly bright. On the down side, he has always panicked in test situations and never gets to showcase his intelligence. He has difficulty talking to people he doesn’t know very well.

    It killed me to see him fail tests that I knew he knew the material. As a result, he’s labelled below average.

    I wish I could offer advice. I’ve tried everything … unsuccessfully. In the end, I’ve decided his smile when he’s happy and his ability to support himself is what matters. Having said that, it still pains me that he is no where close to where his intelligence could take him. There aren’t many places for people who learn and demonstrate intelligence differently. They get labelled and discarded.

    Sorry this sounds so negative.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This pulls me in so many different directions. As mom, as teacher, as woman at a party. I know it feels a bit isolating, but you’re really not alone. He’ll make his way. And you’ll give him exactly what he needs.
    My son is 22 now and he’s still not average. I say that with pride and not with worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I know what you and your son are going through. Until he was finally diagnosed with ADHD, we and he were frustrated and angry and homework was the worst time of the day. I love that the teacher told you your son is going to be great – you need that support and encouragement. I had to wait until Patrick was in 7th grade before a teacher told me that, and like you, I wanted to cry, He’s become a valuable and functioning adult, which is what every parent wants for their child, but you have to wait for it!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. From Uncle Buck β€œI don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re ALL good kids, until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good.” This is why I have no patience for public schools. My nephew is facing the same issues with his son that he and his brother had. They are too smart for the system. They disconnected early because they were over-looked for what they had.
    Your son, when older, would be exactly the type of kid who would have been put into my class but would have loved it. I learned early in my undergrad work about an educational theorist, Howard Gardner, who embraced the different learning styles of children called multiple intelligence. Kids in my program never had to answer a specific way, they just had to answer. They could do videos, or photos, or music or draw. Many of these β€œdifficult behavioral” children have their own business and are thriving as adults. All because they (me) did not shove them into a box and told them to perform. BTW, I got in big trouble for it and was told I would not make it as a teacher…. Okey dokey….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Whoa. You could be describing my boy. He’s 7. I thought I was the only one dealing with this so I’m really grateful you wrote this. I finally pulled him out to home school him this year and have seen huge leaps in his learning in only 9 weeks. I wish you all the best. I find it really hard when parents with agreeable and calm kids complain about their children. I want to shake them and tell them how hard it is on my side of the fence.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is going to sound…something. I was that kid. It sucked. (Let me finish!!!) I floundered. If a teacher even hinted at approval, I flourished. It was rare. I was the kid who missed being an SAT Merit Scholar by one point because I was stoned when I took the test. (OK, I’m kinda proud of that, and glad I don’t have kids I have to explain THAT to.) I wasted my life in various ways and now I’m 57, working at a crap job and alone. I get to think back on “where did it go wrong?” It is very hard being the outsider, the misfit, and smart. (Smart people can do some very stupid things for very long periods of time, sadly.)

    So, how is it that your kid(s) will be any different? First of all, you wrote this article. HUGE difference. My parents were asshats, abusive, alcoholic, malignant narcissism, WWII era, idiots who never showed their kids any love or attention unless it was negative. A loving, supportive family is huge. I’ve read you enough to know you are a great parent (not perfect, sorry, there aren’t perfect parents). You ARE clued into your kids. You care. You will do what you can to make sure your kids aren’t floundering. Now you mention a teacher who is noticing. Kids feel those things. I was spooky smart and industrious WHEN a teacher paid positive attention. I went on strike when they didn’t. Kids respond to that stuff. It sounds like the environment, including the humans, are great for nurturing “that” kid.

    No matter what you do, all parents do something, at some time, to ensure that psychotherapists will have jobs for generations. πŸ™‚ Keep doing what you are doing and I’ll bet your kids will be amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I hope he continues to have understanding teachers (I did too). My mum, with all her faults, loved me so completely that it made my odd traits seem special. Our understanding of mental health is increasing every day and allowing society to be more accepting. He is a lucky little boy to have a mom who loves him so much.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It absolutely will. I get concerned about precise diagnoses for children and adults with mental health issues (but I also understand the need for them). My diagnosis has been changed about 4 times. Everyone is unique, even in their illness. There is no perfect solution nor does it necessarily stop you reaching the top of your profession or, more importantly, having a contented life. Love from parents, spouses and even doctors gives you confidence to live your own special life. K x

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Those of us who surpassed our classmates without even trying still just wanted to be ‘normal, regular’ kids…and I can completely relate to ‘spazzing out’ when social situations are too much to bear. I still do it, LOL

    All I can say is – appreciate his mighty brain…don’t fear it. My educated, well-meaning parental units were terrified by my intelligence and wanted to crush it. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you for this post Victo, I am learning to take it easy with my girls everyday, my 7yr told me recently said “did you know home is where I can totally be myself?” by this she means endless rib cracking jokes and of course she only said this when I reminded her it’s time for homework.

    Liked by 1 person

    • People don’t like genius. It makes them uncomfortable. Makes them jealous, threatens their status quo. You would think we would be enlightened enough now that we would not still so that, but I watched beat down and after academic beat down of some really brilliant minds in undergrad. The other side is that the truly brilliant are typically oblivious to the niceties of social interaction so they rub other people the wrong way in the first place. Once they have a Nobel in hand, everyone backs off but the getting there sure is a bitch.


  20. My younger daughter’s first and second grade teacher (thanks goodness she was out half of the first year on maternity leave!) told the third grade teacher she was assigned to that my daughter was nothing but trouble…I know that because that teacher and I have become good friends, starting with the delight she took in my “different” child. She still can’t get over the warning, but that teacher liked quiet compliant children, not those who asked difficult questions or were easily bored. The teacher really matters.

    To be truthful, school and my younger child have never been totally compatible, but she was saved by the teachers, especially in middle school, that valued each student for who they were without expectations. Here’s hoping your son will meet with a few teachers who “get” him along the way…(K)

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  21. When I read that your son’s desk was placed next to the teacher’s, my heart actually skipped a beat. My son was somewhat precocious (ordering Roquefort dressing on his salad at a restaurant when he was four). I was eighteen when I had him and he was around adults more than kids his age, so he related to adults.

    When he was in the fifth grade I went to the Parents’ Night at his school and was mortified to find that his desk had been pulled up to face the teacher’s, just like your son’s. It seems he was doing a lot of talking in class and this was the only way the teacher could get him to shut up. I worried that he was not going to do well in school because of that. The next year he had a little lady who was very no-nonsense whose task it was to shape up the kids before they went off to junior high. She was tough but fair and the kids loved her. My son came home one day with a notice that the parents were invited to a class awards ceremony. He said he was getting one, but he thought it was just for attendance or something like that. I went to the ceremony and about fell out of my chair when the teacher announced that my son was receiving the American Legion award for most promising student. Eventually he went on to get a degree in biology from UC Irvine, and then a combined masters and PhD. in neuroanatomy.

    Your son is so fortunate to have you as a parent. I know you will stand by him and encourage him in whatever he chooses to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I do not like the idea of your son sitting by himself. He could still sit up near the teacher and be in a group. He is still little and may be immature. It is hard, all the work the kids are expected to do. There was a report on NPR about a study out of Stanford that states kids may not be ready for school until at least 7 years old. I think many times boys are not ready. There are many strategies that address attention and impulsiveness. If your son has trouble staying in his seat for long periods the teacher can allow him to get up and walk around, sharpen pencils for the class or take messages to the office. This allows his to move without getting in trouble. There are “fidgets” that kids can squeeze and even these special seats with a special cushion that let kids gently bounce. There is one that looks like at exercise ball, that the kids sit on. Teachers can use timers to help kids learn to re-focus and know how long they should be working on a task. I would suggest for a start to see if anything rings true to you. They also have so many recommendations for classroom accommodations and strategies for kids. The teacher can play up his strengths and make sure he has a chance to shine. That would help with him being identified as ” different” in a bad way. I think it is important that you learn all about learning differences and identify exactly what your son is dealing with and the best ways to help him. You will be his most important advocate. Don’t expect the school to be that because unfortunately they often are not.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It does not matter how intelligent or gifted you are. When you cannot communicate well and have trouble adapting you lose out. Some smart kids are smart and develop the skills to communicate and to adapt themselves quickly.

    Some smart kids are slow and have trouble focusing their energy. Fencing, that modern sport helped me through my high school years. It forced me to focus my energy on specific tasks while paying attention to others. I was still a weirdo but I was learning to control my impulses and focus on my own things.

    A sport that challenges your son to learn to focus and adapt can be beneficial. With the right guidance he can learn to control his impulses and adapt better to situations. All you have to do is be there for him…

    Liked by 1 person

  24. KaratΓ© is very good start.

    It is up to him to understand that KaratΓ© is about being a good person, not fighting techniques. He will still do stupid things but that is part of life. In good company he will find his way.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. How old is he?
    I wouldn’t worry too much. Kids are very resilient. And with the support of excellent parents most find their way.
    Oh, and better to have a supporting teacher than some of the morons who pose as such.
    Again. Breathe normally. With a mother like he has? He’ll be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

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