There is a pain inherent in being Zachary’s mother. A pain that comes from knowing the world is a difficult and confusing place for him and also knowing that I cannot make so many parts of his life easier. A pain born of my understanding that his remarkable intellectual gifts do not come with the emotional tools he needs to navigate the complexities of his own rare mind.
It is a cliché at this point: the mother who thinks her child is gifted and tormented because he is misunderstood. I am not going to get into proving what I already know about my son. So, you can either take me at my word on this one and listen to the worries that I have, or you can click away to a more humble mommy blog. Because today I am going to be completely honest about who he is, without worrying that people will read this and think I am just a competitive mother trying to get my kid into the gifted class.
Another cliché is the person who says, “I hope my child is not gay. I don’t care, of course, but I would like his life to be easier than that.” We scoff at those people, calling them camouflaged homophobes. Shouldn’t they just celebrate the things that make their children who they are?
Well, for the first time in my life I think I get what they are saying. Not that this has anything to do with sexual orientation, because I am (thanks be to heaven) years away from the point where either of my children thinks about sex. (Is there any way I can postpone that for a few more years – like till I am ninety?) But, I finally get why someone would want to take away a difference from her child, a difference that is beautiful and rich and rewarding, but that also can carry with it confusion and pain in a world unprepared for it.
Watching Zachary navigate his social world, watching him try to deal with the sensory overload that comes from taking in so much more than other people, watching him do math that makes children twice his age sweat without even thinking about it, watching him think that he doesn’t measure up because he is not as comfortable as his peers, it makes me want to sob on my pillow. It makes me want to hold him close and keep him out of the world with all the pain it will have for him.
But I can’t. Because I cannot stimulate him the way he needs. He wants to be at school, in the structure, drinking in all it offers him. But, when we added afternoons this week, the more unstructured time bombarded him, and he was miserable.
And so, we are right back where we were almost three years ago, when we pulled him out of daycare because he could not handle the stimulation all day long. He will stay in the afternoons just for the first hour, which is a class, and then I will pick him up before the free play. I will lose some much-needed alone/work time, which I could get if he were at school while Benjamin slept. His brother will have to adjust his nap schedule, which will make him a little cranky but otherwise not affect him much. Fairness is not about everyone getting the same thing; it is about everyone getting what he needs.
It will help a little. But Zachary’s world is a place we can only enter so far, and there is only so much I can do to help him find his way. I worry that I am not up to the task, that, frankly, he would have done better with a mother a bit less like himself. I know a lot about the place where he lives, because I have been to its suburbs. I am not even close to the mind I suspect he is, but I wonder if a mother who had spent her life feeling rather than thinking wouldn’t actually be a better match for his needs.
And some days, some days like yesterday, if I could, I would make my baby a little less talented, a little less special, if only it could ease his road.