Our little talks, wanting to belong

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 6, 2018, 6:50 PM | comments: 0

I haven't written about parenting lately in recent months, I guess because I'm often not sure where to go with it beyond, "I don't feel like I'm doing it right." Not only that, but when so much of your time is spent thinking about ASD or ADHD, you can't help but feeling like you're spending too much time on what's "wrong." That's definitely not something I want to do, because I do have some great times with Simon. He can also be pretty funny, though sometimes unintentionally, and with a kid that socially struggles, that's certainly a good thing.

While I get frustrated with the fact the he's not always showing empathy, or even appears outright selfish at times, I can see very clearly that he's very emotional, and that emotion can come flooding out at times. Even at 8, it's still very important to him that we lie down next to him at bed time to talk before bed. Diana and I take turns at this, and we've been trying to get him to talk more about what he feels. There's a secondary motivation here, that academically he sometimes has issues composing things into well formed thoughts and sentences even when he understands internally what he knows. It's odd how he can see numbers and all of the math shortcuts, and can read all day, but still finds expressive language challenging.

We've very suddenly been hearing things from him, in a good way. He's starting to share, though he's more apprehensive about doing so with me, probably because I'm pretty brutal about him being accountable for what he says and does. But last night, he first expressed that he got into trouble at school for doing something that a classmate was doing (he didn't say what). I asked him if he did this because it helped him feel like he belongs, but he had trouble understanding what I meant.

From there we went on to other subjects, and he expressed that no one liked him at school. That's a heartbreaking thing to hear from your kid. I asked him why he felt this way, and he said that it was because no one laughed when he was funny. This was something of a relief, because I suspect this feeling was based on his misunderstanding about a social contract. I explained that being funny wasn't really an indicator about how much people like you, which he seemed to partially accept. He has all of the same kids in his class this year, and I can't believe they don't like him. He's having some trouble on the bus with some kid (and an inattentive driver), but I know some kids like him.

We talked about making friends, and how to get people to like you, and I brought up the example of one of the neighbor kids, a sister that is a few years older than one of his peers. She routinely defends Simon and calls out some of the other kids when they aren't being very nice. I asked Simon if he thought that she liked him, and he said yes, and we talked a bit about how she's nice to everyone, and that really makes her likable. I asked if he could do that, and he said it would be too hard.

A minute later, as sleep was catching up with him, he said that he would like to try that, so we had a deeper conversation about the haters and how you can't really win them over, so it's best to ignore them. I don't know how much of this really sunk in.

The thing that was most painful about this conversation was how I related to it, from my own time in grade school. I was the "weird kid" as well, and I did not fit in. Kids are dicks, and I remember that in painful detail, though I had mostly forgotten because, well, I'm over 40. Simon brought it all back to me, which made it even harder to hear what he was telling me. But I get how intense his feelings are, and how much he wants to belong. You can't think critically about your own self-worth at that age.

I know my kid is going to suffer at times, and I struggle with the extent to which he has to endure it as a developing human being, and how much I should try to protect him. It doesn't feel good.


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