As many of you readers know, I have a little girl I refer to as Pip. She’s a year behind Stink in school. She pretty much worships the ground her brother walks on. This includes not wanting to give up sharing a room with him, laughing until her eyes pop out of her sockets at him, and giving a speech at school about why “Stink is My Hero.”
None of her adoration comes from feeling sorry for his tics. Quite the contrary, she just finds him hysterical because, well, he is.
I write this because I’ve had this huge shift lately in how I talk about my son. While yes, he does tic (and with that comes some special accommodations like diet and the whole “he has TS” speeches for new play dates and school years) he is not really what I’d consider special needs. There’s not a darn thing wrong with his academic or social life.
You know who does have special needs more and more? My daughter.
She is traversing those rocky waters of pre-tween years. Her math and science are starting to take a dip. Some of this could be said that I spend too much time with Stink, but truthfully, that’s not it. I am hyper vigilant about spending time with her, from our mommy daughter library days each Monday to our road trips and nightly reading. (We are halfway through Anne of Green Gables. The little orphan kid is a kick in the gingham pants, for sure!)
The truth is that Pip is stumbling a bit because of me. I’m just not around as much as I used to be. I’m working full time. I am tired when I get home. I always figured my pragmatic Hermione Granger had it all together because, well, she mostly does!
But these days, she needs some extra support, and all fingers point to me and my performance in the past 3 months. I have been there each day — picking her up after school at 2 p.m. on the dot. But, after getting up at 4:30 for a 6 a.m. shift, I’m not there for her. And that needs to change.
The nail in the coffin came a few days back during one of my weekly gatherings. With 12 kids running amok like feral beasts in my back yard, the conversation turned to male/female dynamics shifting at school. A friend turned to me and said, “Bekka really misses spending time with Stink. She thinks he’s awesome, despite the fact that some kids in school find him odd.”
Side note: Last year that statement — the part about him being “odd” — would have broken my heart. But this year, for whatever reason, I am 100 percent confidant in his “weirdness” as being what makes him brilliant and eccentric.
Like my daughter, I find him outrageously hysterical. I am no longer going to put my fears on his tics. He is proving himself innocent to self-confidence plummets until proven guilty.
“Belle,” I told my friend, “My kid is awesome despite some special needs.”
She slammed down her wine glass which, frankly, was kind of dramatic and awesome all at once. Could have been the wine — who knows? “He does not have special needs!” she bellowed. “He has a medical condition! There is a difference.”
I was stunned. And you know what? She was right.
Then and there, it hit me like a ton of gluten-free bagels from a toaster (which translates to the same as “bricks.”) It became as evident as white on rice that It’s time to put that special needs label to rest. I’m not against labels, but I don’t need them anymore to as a stamp of protection on my self-depricating “I know my kid has issues” defensive diploma.
In the blink of an eye, I got the upgrade I had been looking for but didn’t know I needed. My son has a medical condition. Not my fault! Let it go, mama!
If you think about it, don’t we all have special needs? I do for sure. My throat is killing me. I haven’t seen a dear friend in over a month. My new dog is scared of other dogs! And, yes, daughter has needs, too. Because of it, she’ll be getting some special attention today.
Today we will sit side by side in our local library. We will talk fractions and loft beds. We will discuss Junie B. Jones, Anne of Green Gables, and lament the fact that there has not been a new Clementine book in a YEAR!
And then we will go out for ice cream because my son with the medical condition shouldn’t eat it right before acupuncture.
Do you have special needs? What are they? Mine is for connection, great food, a glass of red wine and a super book. What are your thoughts on labels vs. no labels?
PS — Here’s my latest column at Believe.com. If you’re a person of faith, or even if you’re not, I’d love for you to register there and leave a comment. Thank you!
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