My eight-year-old son, Slim, is . . . unique, to say the least. I knew he would be that day long ago when I was twenty weeks pregnant and the doctor said to Hubby and me, "Baby B has a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate."
I didn't quite know what that meant, but over the next fourteen and a half week weeks, I learned from Hubby, who was an oral surgery resident, just what it would entail. Read Simply Slim Part 1 and Part 2 to find out.
Everyone who meets Slim has one of two reactions: they are either delighted by his quirky personality or completely puzzled by his behavior. There really is no in between. I find myself constantly apologizing for him or explaining him. He is such a bright, smart, creative child, but he definitely has his own interests and own way of looking at the word.
You either "get" this or you don't. And what I worry about the most as he gets older are his teachers and classmates.
In kindergarten, he had the epitome of kindergarten teachers: sweet and extremely sensitive to the fact that he came to school with a brother who was dying. All the kids in the class loved him and thought he was so funny.
At his first grade fall parent-teacher conferences, his teacher said to me when I sat down, "I believe all children are a gift from God. I would never try to make any of my students fit into any kind of mold." Since the mold was broken when Slim was made, this is exactly what I needed to hear. It was all I could do to keep myself from reaching across the table and kissing her.
Things changed quite a bit in second grade. Wanting to start the year with a positive connection with his teacher, I spoke to her right away about his new ADHD diagnosis. Instead of helping, it kind of felt like his teacher was already biased against him from day one. It took her the better part of the year to figure him out, and he had a miserable year.
Slim is in third grade this year, and so far, it's been kind of tough on us all. He has lots of homework every night. Quite often, either Hubby or I spend from about 4:00 to 7:00 working with him. It frustrates us all: Slim, who obviously wants to be doing other things, me because I have three other children to care for and dinner to fix, and Hubby because Hubby gets frustrated with Slim and homework.
His behavior is often a source of tension for all of us, and we yell at him quite a bit. We hear each other yelling at him, and it saddens both Hubby and me because we each know that's how we sound when we talk to him. Despite behavior therapy and meds (which, when I was teaching, I said I'd never give my own child because, after all, ADHD was just the result of lazy parenting), things with him are not getting much better.
And while plenty of kids still like him, think he's funny, and say hi when they see him, I have seen the way that some kids ignore him and have had the teacher tell me other kids in the class have complained about his constant talking and interrupting.
And he is getting more defiant and frustrated as well. It makes me miss the sweet little boy he once was.
But just when I get so sad and so frustrated, I get little glimpses and reminders that he is still that delightful, unique child that I fell in love with at first sight.
Saturday morning, Slim had Tae Kwon Do. This is a fairly new activity for him, one we're hoping sticks. He briefly played soccer, but he was more interested in running up and down the sidelines "entertaining" the parents. He played xylophone for a while, but was more interested in playing freestyle than following his teacher's lessons. And he has quit and rejoined Cub Scouts twice. When he arrived home, he was pink with glee. He had a received a yellow notch in his belt after only his third class. The look of pride and excitement on his face was priceless.
Later that evening, I was helping him with the first step of his science report, which was to choose three animals not common to our region, about which to possibly write his report.
On his paper he wrote:
- goblin shark
- fat tail scorpion
- sea krait
Now, I have heard of a goblin shark. It is the oddest looking shark, and Slim's favorite.
However, never having heard of the other two, I was sure they were made up and/or spelled incorrectly. So we took to Google, and here's what we found:
I don't know why I doubted him. I don't know why I doubted that he knows more than I do when it comes to exotic, unique animals.
Sometimes I don't know why I doubt that he will be okay or find his niche in life. I just need to remind myself of it more often.
I need to have faith in him and show him how to have faith in himself.
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