My son was about a year old when I realized he was a slightly different child.
Sweet and loving, he was a chunky little Mama’s boy. He did everything on-time, not early and not grossly late. I nursed him until he was 15 months old. I worked part-time until his sister was born so we spent most of our time together.
So, what was different?
He was calm.
Everyone I knew who had a child around his age – especially a boy child – always complained about how “busy” their kids were, that they were always in motion and getting into stuff. He just didn’t do this. He liked to play with his toys, and look at books. He did not race all over the place, or make a lot of noise, or destroy things.
When he was slightly older, and talking quite well, we were eager for him to become passionate about something. We knew other parents of boys who were emphatic in their love for Thomas the Train, or soccer, or the movie Cars. We were surprised at how quickly his interests changed. He was kinda into Thomas for a few months, but it wasn’t the hardcore live-and-breathe love we heard from other parents. Similar fads came and went, and nothing stuck for long.
What he did like to do was to learn the names of things, which he quickly memorized. He loved to go through picture books and identify each picture. Particular favorites included Tool Book, My Big Dinosaur Book, and My Big Train Book.
He quickly developed a HUGE vocabulary. My husband thought it was cute to teach him big words, so my 18 month-old would talk about the “metamorphosis” of a caterpillar into a butterfly, or how soothsayers “prognosticate.”
My son is now 7 years old. He is a lefty. He hates sports, but loves to flip on a trampoline or swim underwater. He does not like to read books, although he is an excellent reader. He likes to draw. Secretly, he loves to dance.
He has a wicked sense of humor. For example, the latest Transformers movie included a scene in which someone called someone else a “dickhead.” Tonight, he asked us what a “dick” was, and when we told him he burst into peals of laughter because, really, how funny is it to tell someone their head is a penis. He laughs at captions in picture books, faces people make in movies, and funny dialogue.
He cries on a dime. When he is angry he will shout and stomp his feet the whole way to his bedroom, from which he will emerge minutes later contrite and calm.
He has a very, very fragile heart. He is easily upset over seemingly trivial things in movies or books. He sobbed for weeks over the movie “Gnomeo and Juliet” because of a fish statue that kept ending up in the water. (“but it’s sad, how will he get out?”) Similar upset occurred in Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and too many television shows to count.
He still sucks his thumb, and has his baby blanket named Silky that he carries around at home.
He has a hard time with other kids.
I am only now beginning to realize how profound this issue is for him. Our new neighborhood is on a cul-de-sac, which fills with kids playing basketball or football or tag. The kids are largely older than mine, but my girl child moves along with them as if she has always been here.
But D, well, he struggles. The neighbor boys scare him because they play like boys – sword fights and gun battles, threats of death and dismemberment, lots of dramatic and creative gore.
He doesn’t play like this. He’d rather make up and act out stories that involve dramatic rescues and creatures and making things like forts or tanks out of giant boxes.
He doesn’t play outside anymore.
His parent-teacher conference was all about the data: percentiles and spelling words, how he performs academically (which is fine). I had to push to get anything about who he is at school. Yes, he has friends, the kids all seem to like him.
“But, does he play with them, like during free time or recess?” I asked, bordering on tears with frustration and concern.
“Well, sometimes he will play if they ask him, but if it is something like tag he won’t play for long. Boys at this age, well, I’m not sure if you know this, but most of the time when they play together much of the play is actually arguing about the rules. And he isn’t interested in that.”
I totally cried.
I thought his teacher understood him, until he brought home a spelling test a few weeks later on which she had written – in fat red marker – “Please do not draw on your spelling tests.” (I drew on alllll of my spelling tests and it was never a problem)
This is that uncharted territory in parenthood that I don’t feel like anyone can relate to – sure, everyone thinks that their child is special, and they are, but what about the ones who really are different?
My fear, my biggest concern, is that even though my son is a bit of a loner, he might actually be quite lonely.
He is in second grade and has no best friend., although he is very close with his sister.
I don’t know what I am supposed to do for him – push him to try more things, get him into some kind of therapy, or accept him exactly the way he is.