My youngest son would happily watch YouTube toy review videos for the rest of his life. I don’t let him, but he SO WOULD. He especially loves the “blind bags” – those ridiculously priced little pouches filled with a single tiny version of a superhero, which you may or may not already own because you can’t tell what’s inside, damnit. Little Bear has cried all three times I’ve surprised him with one because it’s WRONG and we need to TRY AGAIN, MOMMY! I’m doing my best slow clap, you evil marketing geniuses.
Parenting a child with mental illness is, without a doubt, the grown-up version of a blind bag.
If it’s a volatile time, I wake up every. single. morning. wondering which version of Pea will come down the stairs. Will he be happy and relaxed? Or did he toss and turn amid a torrent of nightmares? Will he give me the sleepy grin and crawl into our bed? Or will he hover near my beside table wringing his small hands with worry? I’m never sure. I do a lot of praying, y’all.
Other times, the blind surprise is sneakier. It appears in my lap out of nowhere with a giant “OPEN ME!” sticker and I’ve got no choice but to follow the directions. Occasionally, it’s an unexpected blessing. Sometimes, it’s an epic disaster that I’ve never entertained the thought of before.
I recently opened a disaster and it’s nothing and it’s everything. Pea is about to start 3rd grade. Pea thinks he is popular. Pea is not popular. I wonder if this is the year that he will figure it out. Please don’t let it be the year that he figures it out.
It’s a loaded topic and more nuanced than that, but it hit me in just those words during a chat with my mom a few days ago. When our babies are little, they are as “popular” as we are…meaning that your young child is friends with people YOU socialize with. They don’t have much say in the situation, other than controlling the instinct to bite Sally and/or steal McNuggets and toy trains. Pea is lucky to have some amazing friends thanks to my “tribe” in the neighborhood and for that I am very thankful – because he’s getting older and he’s going to probably wear the “weird kid” tag soon, if he doesn’t already. He was briefly picked on by a 4th grader last spring and the boy’s catch phrase whenever he laid eyes on Pea was, “Hey, look! It’s the Weird Kid! Hi, WEIRD KID!” Weirdly AWESOME, jerk face. Did I say that out loud? Anyway…
The bottom line is that Pea IS different. His brain seems to operate in a different space. He loves to tell jokes…one of his sweet teachers told me last year that she opened up their writing lesson by asking if anyone knew what “contractions” were. Pea raised his hand to say they were “something that pregnant women had”. I snorted with laughter over that one – but how many second graders do you know who have studied labor and delivery? Pea tackled that topic at the ripe old age of 3. He likes different things than his peers. He plays in different ways than his peers.
And let’s face the elephant in the room, y’all. He cries a lot at school. He panics a lot at school. He goes to the nurse a lot at school. He tells everyone at school about his GAD and OCD because I taught him that it was no different than his friend with diabetes doing the same. Except it is different, isn’t it? I’ll NEVER be sorry that I taught him to stand tall and not feel ashamed. But I’m only just now thinking about the social ramifications for his openness. Blind bag, anyone?
Pea has one “best” male friend. One sweet boy from his grade who is gifted and funny and loves to make up elaborate worlds and play in them just like Pea. He’s laid back and easy going and fast becoming a popular little dude. Pea is not his only best buddy. The difference is palpable now. This summer, he’s frequently out at other friend’s houses when we try to invite him over.
Pea doesn’t get invited to other friend’s houses. I hadn’t thought about it ONCE until a couple of weeks ago.
Pea got invited to one birthday party outside of my tribe this year, and that was a BIG party. The “tribe” birthdays are dwindling because most of my close friends have girls and they do things involving glitter and slumber parties now. I don’t WANT people to force their kids to include Pea – that’s ridiculous. I might be the odd mom out with that feeling, but I’m not for forced inclusion – unless the whole class is invited, of course. I wouldn’t make Pea to invite the whole class to HIS small parties (when he has them) and the same goes for everyone else. If you want to have five best pals at your party, they should be your FIVE BEST PALS. But, LORD, ya’ll. It shatters my heart into a million tiny pieces when I think of Pea not having his own buddies…kids with his name on the tip of their tongues when planning a celebration. All the blind bags.
I want him to have a crew of boys who laugh and play and eat all the food in my kitchen.
I want to say, “No, you can’t go to Johnny’s house! You’ve got homework!”
I want to say, “Sorry, Sally! Pea can’t play tomorrow – he’s already got plans with Steve. The rest of the week is crazy. How does Monday work for ya’ll?”
I want my fellow mental illness mamas know that I feel your pain and we are all in this together. I’m sitting with you and hugging your neck when you hear about the umpteenth party your babe wasn’t invited to. I hate it, too.
I’m there during all those summer afternoons when your little dude is bugging you to have his buddy over and you don’t want to tell him the truth – buddy had plans with another friend. You’re not looking forward to the day he realizes that he’s not ever busy. I’m not, either.
I take that back. I want ALL THE MAMAS to know that my hand is on your shoulder. Being left out certainly isn’t bound to kids with special needs. It happens to everyone. And it SUCKS when it’s your child on the sidelines. No matter what.
Let’s remember to support everyone whenever we can. Be a friend to that mama who has a kiddo on the outskirts. Being a parent is the HARDEST THING EVER and we need each other for love, kindness and
vodka drinking moral support.
And honestly…WHO came up with these damn toy reviews on YouTube? I would be all what-the-hell-turn-that-junk-off except that HobbyKidsTv is the primary reason that I’m able to shower daily. So Imma let you finish.
<<cracks self up with Kanye reference and drops mic>>