Friday, April 30, 2010

Geeky Children, Geeky Parents

Once in a while you do something out of the ordinary and rejoin the world of typical parents just for a few hours and you realize just how out-of-place you really are.

This past weekend, I attended a bridal shower for a dear friend but unfortunately, I really didn't know anyone there. Thus, I ended up sitting and chatting with three women who knew the bride from college. There were all married and had children, and from what could discern, all of the children were typically developing. I was just happy to be sitting with moms because I thought there could be some interesting conversation but it was more interesting-odd rather than interesting-cool or interesting-useful.

At the beginning of the shower, I decided in advance that I would not blurt out my special need-ness to anyone. I thought I might reveal it later but only if it was necessary and hopefully it would come out casually.

I tried to be an observer instead and listened more than talked as the moms and I discussed topics like schools, emergency rooms, staying home, juggling work and family, etc. I started feeling really distant as they delved into subjects like sleepovers and afterschool activities.

I listened as they talked about how many boys or girls were in their house for their last sleepover and how it went well except for the girl who went home early. "But she has issues," the mom said. I thought about my kids and how they would feel about sleepovers when they got to that age. Would anyone invite them? Would they even have any typically developing friends? Could they control themselves and their emotions in someone else's house?

And then there was the discussion on weekend sports activities. I envied these women who could take multiple children to classes and have their child who may not be attending a class, patiently wait until their siblings finished their classes. That would never be the case for us. I can barely take my kids for a walk in my neighborhood without fearing for their safety and constantly redirecting them to behave more appropriately to the point where I am breaking a sweat.

I then got really lost when they started talking about middle schools and high schools. They seemed to know everything about which school their child would eventually attend. I know my children are young but I have no idea how much they will be able to overcome their disabilities in a few years from now. I have no idea when they will no longer need an IEP. Maybe college? ugh. Thus it is hard to look forward to any school. I guess that really sucks because I will not get to plan ahead as much as I want and if I try to plan ahead, I could very well be wasting precious time that I don't have.

I could have mentioned this in our discussion but when things like this came up, I just listened. I just listened to all of the things that I do not have. Strangely, it really wasn't envy that I felt. It was more loneliness. I knew that it would be strange if I opened my mouth and started talking about how it was so great that they knew which school their children would attend because mine had special needs and that we've been living between question marks and exclamation points since the days of breast pads and crib mobiles. I had a feeling that they might not get my meaning. I wonder if they would take it like, "Gosh, you are so lucky that your car turns on and you can drive after you put the key in the ignition."

Giving more of my life's details and start rambling out acronyms like ADHD or PDD would probably not bring about any comments I want to hear. I guess I'm tired of hearing stuff like, "my nephew had it and he's fine now," or worse, the eyes shoot straight down to the floor because they have nothing to say and I for some reason end up feeling ignored or stupid or regretful for saying anything at all.

Why do I feel like this? It's only a bridal shower. Why can't I just be happy for the pretty bracelet that the bride's mother made for each guest and the manicure set that I could also use to clip my kids' fingernails.

When the subject of extracurricular activities came up, I said that my kid had no luck with soccer but rather we have been trying out chess lately. ( I don't know why I had to begin with talking about his soccer failure first). I suppose I felt the need to extra-explain why I put him in chess class. The bride's mom had lovely things to say about how chess is good for promoting intelligence. I felt embarrassed after I talked about it, as if everyone at the table thought I was boasting about my smart kid who has a hard time doing other things but is great at the smart people's game. The other moms practically said nothing which made me feel even more odd. One did mention that her son learned chess but conversation didn't go anywhere after there.

I finally did mention that my son had "attention deficits" without spelling out the whole disorder and wasn't asked a single question afterwards. I wondered if that scenario was odd. I wonder what I would say if someone was talking to me at a bridal shower and she said that her son has cerebral palsy, so swimming is hard for him, . Actually that is not a good comparison because I identify with pretty much any mom that has a child living with challenges.

So what is my point? I am not sure if I have one except that I really feel like an outcast (or geek) sometimes. I really think that I am no different from my kid in that I find it so incredibly hard to be socially appropriate or just plain likable. I feel like I have no commonality with many women regarding the issues that are so incredibly huge in my life. Thus, I feel lost and out of place in their conversations. I also feel like I have a family of geeks and while you think I am trying to be humorous, I really just want to make sure that my kids will have friends when they finally mainstream out among their typically developing peers. So far, Spencer is completely obsessing about subways and numbers. Logan still likes math and chess and driving games on the Wii. My husband rarely sees or speaks to his friends and if he does, it is because they called him.

Okay, that says it all I guess. We are a family of geeks and I love them and see that the geek in them might be the one thing that brings them into society. Logan has already said he wants to be a mathematician even though neither of us really know what a mathematician does. Spencer is exhibiting cognitive talents more and more each day. Whispers of the word "Asperger's" seem to echo in the air. He definitely seems to have some traits of autism spectrum disorder and I always thought he'd grow out of the PDD-NOS diagnosis. Oh well. They are just words. He is still him, a geek, just like his mom.

Photo: My first-born geek, Logan. We went to a park and Logan managed to find leftover geese food on the ground. Sometimes, I wish I wasn't so safety-conscious (and that he was more safety-aware) so I can let him explore like the way I was able to when I was a kid.


Penny Williams said...

In two short weeks you'll be sitting with Kay and I and talking non-stop about special needs {yay!}. I can't wait to talk with someone in person who's whole world (at least seemingly to us) is about our special needs kiddos and differences.

I am absolutely terrified about traveling to NYC but can't wait to meet you and Kay and sit with two women who get me.

Hang in there. Your boys are starting to reveal their talents and nurturing those gifts will bring them into circles with "neuro-typical" children.

(Luke loves math, reveal a secret ability at chess I wasn't aware of recently, and Mario Kart on the Wii too.)


Liz Ditz said...

Just so you know, my youngest kid (more or less neurotypical) loathed all team sports -- and she's very adept socially.

BTW -- check out martial arts studios in your neck of the woods. Quirky kids may do well in a martial arts programs if the particular school (dojo, studio) is attuned to things like sensory sensitivities, processing issues and so on.

Anonymous said...

You are not the only one who feels lonely in these situations, that is for sure. Many of us do, for different reasons. Spending time with those who don't have any concept of how we live can definitely brings these feeling out.

You have beautiful children (lovely photo, BTW) and they have their own unique way of being in the world. Thank you for blogging and sharing your experiences. Your thoughts and ideas are greatly appreciated!

Hartley said...

I feel the same way.

Remember that there are a lot of geeks in the world -- aside from the fact that I am married to one and raising a couple, I know other kids who are equally as geeky --

We were waiting in the lobby of the Autism Center here on Thursday to see Gabe's pshychiatrist, and we ran into friends of ours -- and my High Functioning Autistic son, and their High Functioning Autistic son sat and played checkers, smiling, laughing and taking turns like angels for nearly 30 minutes.

Is it sad that we find comfort in those most like us? No, because based on the special needs moms I've met -- YOU includede -- and special kiddos I know, I'd say I am in damn good company. : )

Talk soon,

Sherry said...

I often feel that way. My daughter was born with a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. We knew at 16 weeks gestation that if she lived she would never be 'typical.' She did manage to make it to full term and live with us for another seven months. Now, I'm in the 'bereaved parents' group. I get a lot of the same responses when I mention her. I have two children, just one of them no longer lives with me. She is with Jesus. I get downcast eyes, awkward silences or forced "I'm so sorry." While we have developed a new normal since losing Audrey, sometimes I wonder if I will ever 'fit in' like I used to or always expected to...

Anonymous said...

When there is so much going on that you are focusing on, it is hard to get out of that and discuss things that seem somewhat superficial. I get it. I feel like that a lot. Will your kids go to sleepovers - YES! Will they have their own sleepovers - YES! Don't think about where they'll go to middle school or high school - you could be in another state or country by then! Seriously, you've got figured out what needs to be figured out - the near future! I admire you for going to the bridal shower. I've been skipping those sort of things for the reasons you state - I don't have time for small talk or feel like there's too many serious things going on that I just don't have the heart for small talk chit chat etc. Only w. my good friends who "get it."

Anonymous said...

I feel this same way often. my son is in a mainstream school, and he is doing well academically. but plenty of the moms avoid eye contact with me, just to make sure I won't be asking for a playdate. People can be so narrow minded. anyway, you said it well. What can you do, having a kid with a real disability changes you forever--you start to see the world in terms of those who really understand and those who don't or don't want to and are lucky enough that they don't have to.

Jenn said...

Why aren't you guys at the social gatherings I go to and sit there feeling awkward with no one to talk to?

I found my way here from Chynna's blog, and I am so glad I did...I don't have any support group or people to talk to in "real" life about this stuff, and I'm so grateful for your words...thanks.