We have Those Things that we work on at home. You see all the potential and all the pitfalls in your kids. You know hands down that they’re the most amazing children on the planet and you also worry about Those Things, the things that could make school hard or the things that could make other kids laugh at them or the things that could get them sent to the principal’s office. And you worry about sending your kids out and how the world might devour them. You pray for teachers and friends and smile and wave as Pieces of Your Heart trot away from you with their backpacks. And you hope they can’t see behind the smile to your fear that they’ll be misunderstood by the world.
Your kids are unique. And there’s hard stuff. And you worry if you’ve made the right choices for them. You hash and rehash it in your mind again and again.
I feel all these things. The night before school started I felt panicky and the panic flitted from child to child as I thought about the hurdles facing each one. They each have Those Things, and the things are different for each of them. I felt alone on my mom island. But I met with friends and shared my fear and worried out loud about Those Things. And they gave me encouragement and gentle suggestions and a safe place to share.
And then I had teachers email me and want to meet with me about Those Things, and I was simultaneously relieved and terrified that the things would be too much. That people would see our things and think we are hopeless and problematic.
You worry about this. That your family is a Problem and doesn’t work in the real world. That somehow people will see Those Things and ostracize you. Tell you to stay on your island and keep Those Things to yourself. And maybe some people do tell you that and it hurts.
But I’m in this place of teacher meeting and friend sharing and I’m looking into eyes who care about my kids, who like them in spite of Those Things. Maybe because of Those Things. I don’t know. I’m not an objective observer about our stuff and the perception of the world.
I told my friends last week that I felt like we were a family of freaks. (This is nothing against my children. Sometimes you just feel freakish, you know? Like nobody else is dealing with the stuff you’re dealing with?) And they all immediately exclaimed, “Me too!” And then we went around and shared Those Things and waved our freak flags together. And I felt normal, or maybe better than normal, because what is normal anyway? Feeling normal is finding other freak flag wavers.
Anyway, as I wrote all this, I received another email from a teacher wanting to meet with me about one of Those Things. I feel so many emotions:
- anxiety that she noticed Those Things, that Those Things are observable to the naked human eye
- gratitude for a teacher who cares so much about my child
- fear that my child won’t be okay
- stressed that Those Things take so much time and there’s so much going on already
- hope that there’s help available
- nervousness about acronyms and The System
- relief to have people with whom to partner
With these fantastic teachers and friends who know and care about my kids, my mom island is starting to feel more like an archipelago connected by well traveled bridges. I take a deep breath.
We are better together. We need each other. We all have Those Things, so let your freak flag fly.*
*As I was saving this blog post I discovered that there’s a song about letting your freak flag fly in the Shrek Musical, which I’ve never seen. I will need to download this and make it our family anthem.