I had never met a child like Zachary. Certainly, I know there are other bright, sensitive boys out there whose cognitive abilities outstrip their social skills. Yes, I know that mine is not the only little boy who likes pink, sparkles, and all things beautiful. Of course, I have heard that there are other children who dislike Band Aids.
But I had never met one. The children we knew in London were nothing like him, although his little friend down the street was surely as intelligent and eccentric as he is. I was the only other Highly Sensitive Person who I knew.
And then we met him. A few months older, a good head taller, Oliver nonetheless seems to be Zachary’s perfect match. They each march to their own flutist, but they speak each other’s language.
This little boy, he is probably even smarter than Zachary (although I imagine my in-laws would dispute such an outlandish claim), and social situations seem even more overwhelming for him. He talks less than Zachary, but then so do most people. He thinks inside while Zachary shares every last thought – with me. But, playing together, they have no hesitation, no fear. There is simply comfort.
Zachary is playing well with all his new school friends, and they chat away with ease. He is suddenly interested in “sports,” although he has no idea what those are, because a classmate talks about his adventures in soccer and baseball. Dropping him at school, I watch Zach settle into conversation with a little girl who may be the only child I have ever met who speaks as much as he does. Coming home for a playdate, he and another child giggle in the backseat, telling each other jokes that I don’t quite understand. And, as always, he is watching them for cues: what is normal, what is appropriate, who am I supposed to try to be?
But, with Oliver, there is comfort I have never seen. The sense of being in the presence of a kindred spirit. They work on different wavelengths, but together they create music. Zachary never seems to be trying with Oliver, and playing with him creates no stress. They just do it their way, coming together and moving apart through some understanding they have never needed to discuss.
As their younger brothers play together, demonstrating the social ease that comes with second child-ness, as their extroverted mothers’ words spill out across each other, I watch these two boys. They are released from their internal world and the burden of their own perceptions. And, together, they are just two little boys playing with pool noodles.