When it feels like your kid is really you

I was a strange child when I was one. Entrepreneurial, calculated but energetic, friendly but frequently shy, precocious and childish.

I never quite felt like I knew where to fit.

I talked too much most of the time, just to fill the silence. And it annoyed people. I know because they told me. I was too skinny, my laugh sounded strange, my boobs were too small.

I was naive. I believed the best about everyone, and I was often wrong. The laughter and finger-pointing ensued.

I was the girl who was homeschooled, and then homeschooled part-time, in school part-time, and then in school full-time for two years in a provincial Christian school. Then two years later I was the new kid again, now in Catholic school in the Midwest, two time zones away from my West Coast roots.

That's me, front right. Giant toothy metal grin.
That’s me, front right. Giant toothy metal grin. Fortunately my best friend, Jazzy (front left) still accepted me.

I dreamed of gaining weight in all the right places, going to school and having conversations with people who liked me, getting a boy I actually wanted to date to return my affections. Sometimes it even happened.

But most of the time, I was the girl in the hallway, taking an extra trip to the bathroom so no one would know I didn’t have friends to talk to during the passing period. Or to sit with at lunch.

It took all of high school and part of college before I learned how to be normal. Before I learned how to ask questions more, instead of always offering information about myself. I learned what likeable, interesting people do. I even studied humor. Really. I did.

And Jazzy brought oft-needed correction to my social interactions:

“Hey, you’re talking too much again.”

“Why did you say that? That was weird.”

I caught on slowly. I observed and watched and pored over the dynamics and interactions of humans who “got it” in social situations. I wanted to get it so bad.

And awkwardly, painfully, in no record time at all, I finally figured me out. Figured “it” out. How to be myself and still be normal.

Eventually I even liked a guy who liked me back. And we got married.

BlogWedding-notawkward
Here I am, almost exactly 12 years later, on my wedding day. Same smile, but looking a little less like I don’t belong.

{In the picture above, you might recognize one of these people from the first picture. It’s Jazzy (front right). The value of lifelong friendships can never be underestimated. Especially those who will tell you the truth about your weirdness. Thanks, Jazzy. You saved my life a million times.}

A couple years passed, and I forgot about the girl in the pearl pink dress who finally made it. Because I had a kid. A son.

A son who is friendly and fervent, passionate and opinionated. A son with thick, chunky thighs and cankles – still. A son who does not speak as clearly or quickly as the other children. A son who is a beautiful, hilarious, social whirlwind.

John2012-Bday

And sometimes, it feels like he is me. So I worry. I stress about his rashes, that they might be the eczema that shredded my skin and my confidence in eighth grade, nailing the final coffin in my middle school un-coolness.

I fear he will talk too much, or be socially anxious. I fear he will be relentlessly made fun of, left by himself on the playground, picked last for the kickball team. I am terrified he will have all the symptoms of strangeness, inevitably coming home from school some day crying because he does not want to go back.

I fear it because this was me. I was the weird kid, the one who was talking too much, who didn’t want to go back to school in the morning, who got picked last for sports.

It was me. And it was horrible. I have compassion for the outcast and the sad, rejected ones now. But it’s so hard to look back on those days and extract the redemption, the moral, the “I wouldn’t have my life any other way because this made me who I am” proclamation.

I guess I just can’t say that yet. How am I supposed to parent myself? What do I tell myself, my son, afraid to return to the guaranteed ridicule and rejection of tomorrow?

I swore my children would be buoyant, resilient types, ones who knew their value. I said my children would never be afraid like I was. Feet firmly planted in love, they would always know where they belonged. I said my children would be liked, would be confident, would know they were loved even when their social environments were unpredictable.

I was so sure, but now I’m not. I see myself reacting to my toddler, and I am sad because I am not there yet. I am not the confident, shoulders-up version of myself I want to be. I am getting there, mostly normal, but I still have fear. And it’s embodied in what could be in my son’s future.

I don’t want my fear to predict his future. And I don’t want him to know I’m afraid for him, that I think he can’t make it. I don’t want to give him reasons to fear when really, he’s pretty fearless. He might make it through okay. Especially if it turns out he’s like his dad.

I need to breathe deeply, remind myself I survived and I’m okay. Remind myself I was protected, that so much evil did not happen to me, despite the lonely days. Tell myself again and again that I’m really just John’s temporary parent, and his eternal-forever Dad knows what he’s doing, can love and protect John better than me.

So I don’t need to be fearlessly brilliant at parenting. I’m just here to give some guidance. A little love and direction. Take him back to God for the real foundations.

That I can do. I pray. Please do pray for me.

If you have thoughts or advice on how you have dealt with a similar situation with yourself or your kids, I would love to hear about it. 

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3 thoughts on “When it feels like your kid is really you

  1. Hey Pookie. I’m sorry it took me this long to read and respond. But here I am! Love the writing here. It’s intense but it is all very true. I remember those feelings of loneliness and awkwardness not just that you had them but me as well, but I always new you had my back and I had yours and to this day it’s still the same. And maybe our awkwardness is what brought us together. On the kids situation, the only thing we can do is love them for who they are and do not Parent out of fear. You are right that God is their ultament parent and He will get them to where they need to be. Just as he did for the two of us. Oh and I never knew I saved your life all those times. It’s funny because I always tell everyone that YOU SAVED MY LIFE because you knew God and He worked through you to get to me. I think we both figured it out and I’m as happy as I can be right now. I love you as you are! Love, Jaz

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