Today, we have a special treat. As part of our new guest blogger initiative, we’re pleased to introduce our new guest blogger, Paula Libbey. Paula is the mom to two amazing kids — a first-grade girl and a third-grade boy. Her son has Asperger’s, NLD, ADHD, disorder or written expression, and mathematics disorder. Paula, a former copywriter and Twin Cities resident, is a featured blogger at Shetaxi.com, a personal development website dedicated to helping promote balance and well-being for women. Please give it up for Paula.
Bragging Rights for My Child with Learning Disabilities
Ever get up caught in one of those conversations with fellow parents–at a school function or family gathering–where everyone is bragging about their children? Bragging about our kids is supposed to be fun, right?
I ask because I’m still trying to figure out the fun part. Here’s a general idea of how these conversations typically play out for me. I smile, nod, and listen to the other parents. They say things like: My daughter is 2 grade levels ahead in math; My son speaks 3 languages; My daughter just won the tennis tournament…for the fourth year in a row; My son saved 2 hump back whales last summer while we were sailing across the Atlantic [Okay, I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect]; My dog started his own organic rawhide business and made us millions [complete fabrication…for dramatic effect].
I quickly realize I am out of my league and I need to escape the conversation, stat. I don’t want to be too abrupt. I need to look natural. So as I slowly back away from the group, I throw in a, “Wow, what an amazing kid.” [And that dog–just phenomenal] Just as my statement trails off, all eyes are suddenly on me. I want to say, “No, no, no. I appreciate you offering me a turn to boast about my wonderful kid, but I’ve got to scoot.”
I don’t say that. Against my better judgement, I proceed to brag. As I do, I unleash a plague of crickets and bring the once lively conversation to a screeching halt.
“Well”, I say, “My Kid* recently made intermittent eye contact during a conversation!” [Hmm. They don’t seem impressed. I wasn’t going to mention this next one because I didn’t want to be such a braggart, but fine.] “My Kid also recently paddled a canoe!” [No reaction. Clearly they are just confused.] “That means My Kid crossed his midline from right to left without switching hands!” [crickets begin chirping here] “That means the neurons between the right and left brain hemispheres are growing and connecting!” [crickets now out in FULL force]
As a parent of a child with learning disorders**, hangin’ with the parents of “the typicals” can sometimes be awkward. While I can proudly say that My Kid is thoughtful, intelligent, resilient, and funny, my bragging rights are, for now, very different. Until that changes, I think I just need to work on my exit strategies.
~ Paula Libbey, Feature Contributor
* I’m using the phrase “My Kid” in an effort to respect what’s left of my child’s privacy.
**I’m not at all private about this issue. In fact, much to my husband’s chagrin, I often end up discussing the topic with people I’ve just met or the clerk at Trader Joe’s. [They’re just so darn friendly and upbeat.] Anyway, “learning disorders” is a general term. In our case, the combination of specific disorders would require long explanations, which I am too lazy to write at the moment.