Outside the lines. Different. Special Soul. Intelligent. Doesn’t pay attention. In another world. Very busy.
Phrases I have heard about my son. Things I process all the time. How often? All the time. Every day. Every single day. I read an article. I buy a new supplement. I research a new treatment option. I ask a new question. I struggle with an answer.
If you have a child who falls outside the lines, you already know what this feels like. You already know what I am talking about. Your heart is already squeezing a little because you know the joy and pain and passion and obsession and release of a child who has changed your life, because they don’t fall in the lines.
It starts when a child is born, but you don’t really know it yet. You feel like your child is different, but you aren’t sure if it’s sleep deprivation or paranoia or hormones or the fact that it’s your first child. Then you try to ignore it because everyone, including your pediatrician tells you everything is normal. Then a teacher mentions it and the pediatrician says your child is exceptionally intelligent and speaks well and seems to socialize appropriately. But still you wonder why your life is so different. Why does your child have bigger emotions or know things other kids don’t know? Why does your child not do that simple task the right way? And you become a walking contradiction as you struggle to understand your own observations and weigh them against the perceptions of others.
And one day, someone agrees with you. And you begin to understand you are not crazy. You begin to feel surprise and elation and then guilt. You wonder if you should talk about it a lot or a little. You praise yourself for being so intuitive and you kick yourself for talking about it. And then you get a nugget of wisdom from someone else because you shared. And you love your child more than ever because you’re finally not fighting yourself and your child. You are accepting and still confused but on a path. And most of all, you’re not alone.
That’s only a part of my journey. And I didn’t know that I was writing about it all the time. But I knew it was hard. I knew that I had to write, or my body might explode. I had to see it in black and white. And for me, I even blogged, without always saying it outright. And having another child made my experience as a mother even stronger, my footprint heavier, my experiences more embedded, more stark.
I have a child who was diagnosed with ADD. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, right? No. But it was one of the biggest moments in my life as a parent. I finally landed on the ground with some questions I had swimming in my head, something I was trying to solve for. And I don’t even know if the diagnosis is right. But I feel I have a starting place for the first time. I feel this sense of validity, this sense of purpose towards a goal I can see. And although I may end up fighting another battle, right now I have the something I have never had before as parent, something to stand on-that is recognizable by teachers and schools and doctors. Now they are listening to me-better.
Some might judge when they read that. But that’s ok. This is my story. Some might feel it’s simple. But I write this because I have struggled to write it for over a year now. I have struggled with what to say, how to feel, what to divulge. And today, I am writing this. It’s a starting place.
I have two beautiful, intelligent, busy, creative, kind, loving boys. And one of my children will always take extra time. And it’s not because there’s anything wrong with him. It’s because he’s different than everyone else. I like to think he’s more. And he might just change the world. He might just be special enough to realize that a little extra work might mean he can do anything, everything outside the lines. He might just be the reason our family tries harder than we thought we would have to. He might be the reason we end up the happiest family we can be, instead of the family that gets by doing everything normally. I am proud of my son. I am proud to say I never gave up searching and never will.
I am saying this aloud because I didn’t for so long. And as my voice gets louder, the more I learn, the more I grow, the more I expect, and the closer I get to finding out what will make my family’s life the most rewarding it can ever be. I am saying this aloud because I want to reach out to any parent whose child falls outside the lines… whether in a small or big way… because as a parent you are never quite prepared to grasp the wholeness of your children, but sometimes we don’t have to. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to dig so deep? But if you have to dig harder, I pray you have the greatest strength, the greatest resolve, and I pray you have friends and family to love you along the way. And if you don’t have a child who falls outside the lines, I do not envy you. But I pray you will embrace the beauty in people who do fall—outside the lines. And truly, I hope you embrace those that fall in the lines too. Without all of us, life would be terribly uninteresting.