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Monday, June 16, 2014

My son is not a sissy.

I wonder sometimes what my kids will think when they get old enough to read the things I write.

They try to show interest now. Well, the older ones do. But at 7 & 8, even though they would like to be interested in my ramblings, they aren't. Their eyes glaze a bit when they realize the wordiness, and though I can see their brave attempt at pride, the same pride I show in the work they present to me, I can tell. It's over their head.
Of course, I don't expect anything else. I do wonder though if my writing will become as commonplace to them as my photography. Now, at their young ages, they don't seem to realize that not everyone's mom carts around a dSLR. They seem to find the thousands upon thousands of photos of their lives completely normal.




I like to think that the moment they come across my work will be something of a second meeting. After my grandmother passed away, I retreated to her attic for days, pouring over letters she had written to my great-grandfather. Boxes of boxes of letters from all stages of life. Clearly he had saved them all, treasures no doubt, and she had ended up with them after his life ended. Then at the end of hers, I found them. I met my grandmother after she died, in her dusty attic, and I felt like I really, really knew her for the first time.

The thing is, my words aren't hidden in a single place. I compose my words and then click the publish button, and then I can never really take them back.
I wonder then, when will they become curious. Will they be teenagers? Will they google my name and curiously weed through my writing for mentions of them? Or will the fact that their mother tells their stories to the world become as average to them as a lifetime of professional photos?

I don't know.

But you see….I wonder because there are things I want to say that I'm not sure I want them to read.
This post is one of those things. Because a mother wants to protect her child from hurtful things, namely the opinions of others.
So it may disappear before they learn to google.




Asher. His name means happiness, and I would say it suits him. Asher's personality is contagious. He has this unique viewpoint and his comments are somehow hilarious and thought-provoking while completely obvious.

When he was a baby, there was something about him. He would cling to strangers in the grocery store line and ignore certain family members every time they spoke to him. He chose his people, and no one else existed.

As he grew, his quirks became more distinguished. He would only wear comfy pants and rain boots and would melt into a puddle of tears if forced to do otherwise. So I let him. Because who did it hurt?
He carried a Lightning McQueen car in his hand for approximately 3 straight years. To bed, to bath, to the store, to daycare. Then one day he didn't want it anymore. Then came the Mario hat, which was used for Halloween after Halloween and most of the days between.
When the boys started soccer, Jackson took it as an opportunity to work hard and score, to win, to shine. Asher pretended to be Sonic the hedgehog on the field. And during the games, he was often spotted running in the exact opposite direction of the ball.






When he was little, people would say "He is so sweet". And as a toddler, "He is so funny." But then it became a question. They all adored him, found his quirks endearing, but sometimes they asked "He's kind of different, huh?"

And he is.

I can't place it. But Asher is kind of different.
Sometimes he seems so very far away from me. He hugs me. He looks at me from across the room and signs "I love you".  He connects in these fleeting moments, but other time is hard to reach. There are moments I feel like I barely know him, but then we will lay on the floor in fits of giggles making shadow puppets on the ceiling and I know I've known him all along.  He is just a puzzle.
For a long time I worried. I poured over information on autism and found so many of my Asher's eccentricities detailed in articles about Asperger's. I asked the doctors and got mixed answers. As long as he is doing well in school. As long as he is happy…

And he is.

But there is this lurking fear I fight, and it is a daily theme in my prayers. I beg God to use my son, and to protect him from the cruelty of a world that rejects what it doesn't relate to.
Because Asher isn't like the other boys. I've heard it already, said in a well-meaning way, that we will have to watch out for him. Because he is different. and soft. 

My son is different, so we will have to protect him.
He is soft, so he should be toughened up.
He is different, and it will be seen as weakness.
He is soft, so they will call him a sissy.

I will do my best to say this in calmness and love. I will do my best to explain this while I wrestle with the momma bear that rages in my heart at the idea of needing to protect my Asher.

But my son is not a sissy.

He doesn't like to get dirty. And when the breakfast he planned on eating is not available, he has been known to cry. He isn't fast. And he doesn't have the patience for sports. He disappears into video games, because he succeeds there, and when I tell him his daily screen time is over, he looks at me with the saddest eyes. He is immersed in his thoughts and exceptionally bright, but sometimes he is oblivious to what goes on around him. Yes, it's frustrating. But when he realizes that he has been insensitive to someone's feelings, it breaks his heart. He feels…so deeply.



But let me tell you. These things, his quirks, do not define him. He is defined by the God who made him. And my God says that Asher was worth pursuit, that he was worth dying for. The problem is not that I have a son who is soft and different. The problem is that our society sees such a boy and is blind to his value. The problem lies in a world that wants to call him names. Like sissy. This macho society, full of hardened men failing to lead their families, wants to point out the weakness and softness of a small boy.

He does not have a problem that needs to be fixed. When a child shows inherent athletic ability, we encourage parents to hone his skills. When a child shows an inclination to the arts, we put a paintbrush in his hand and praise even his most rudimentary work. But if a boy is soft, we think we have to remedy that. We have to toughen him up to the standard that is expected of him.

Why?
Why is is so difficult to believe that God made my Asher…to be soft? Why are these gentle children pushed and pushed to the brink of violence, broken to fit into a mold that they were not created to fit into?

When he started Pre-K, he befriended the boy with a cleft lip and the overweight girl that couldn't pronounce the letter S. He told me they were the coolest friends anyone ever had.
I thought he was such a kind boy, befriending the bullied, until I realized he was one of them. In first grade, when he came home and told me that a kid named Will kicked him in the lunch line and told him he sucked, I knew. But when we talked, he assured me that Will just needed someone to be nice to him.
So he was nice to him.
And Will told him he was his best friend.
But there will be more Wills. And they may not be so yielding.

He is passionate. The way he ignites when he talks about the things he knows about, the way he adores those he cares about, the way he follows that which his eyes are set on….these traits are no different than the rest of us. We just know how to pretend a little better. We know how to make our fixations more acceptable. But really, when it comes down to it, there is only right and wrong. We are either fixated on something useless or on Jesus.

My son is not a sissy.
And I beg you. If you have ever been the host of thoughts like this, challenge yourself to think differently. Challenge yourself to see a quirky, quiet child and think of what incredible things they could do with the overflow of these traits.

The way I see it, my son has a head start in his pursuit of Christ. Because when he is told to be gentle and humble and kind, he can say "Well, that's how God made me."
He is a creation of the King. He is a masterpiece. He was designed with perfect intention, to fulfill a perfect plan.  He is soft and he is different, made by a God who does not make mistakes.




8 comments:

  1. And he is so beautiful..... Maybe beautiful isn't the word most people would want to hear about their son but you can see love and joy in his eyes and that is beautiful. A mother's heart is never silent. It cries for her child when he is hurt or it leaps with joy when he is celebrated. You've penned that perfectly. blessings, marlene

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  2. My nephew wanted a doll when he was around 3 or 4. I remember some people thinking it was strange. They insinuated things...said he was abnormal. I'm glad their silly remarks didn't matter to his parents, who let him have a doll or two anyway. That was 15+ years ago and barely a blip in their memory now. It's just insane that anyone tried to "make something of it."
    Look at the toy department in any store and you will see the silly line that has been drawn between what is fitting for boys and girls. If we follow the rules, boys should have trucks, dinosaurs and tools. Girls should have play kitchens, dolls, and pink princess garb. No wonder so many fathers are absent from their children's lives when every message they've ever received on the matter says "babies are for girls, not for boys." It's so silly.
    Great blog entry, as usual!

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  3. I love this! How wonderful for his future wife to have a "soft" husband who is sensitive and cares about feelings. The world can definitely use more husbands and fathers like that!!! Our macho culture dictates so much... in doing daycare for 14 years, I've noticed that it is acceptable for girls to play with "boy" toys, but not so much for boys to play with "girl" toys. I've always encouraged the kids to play with both - whatever they find fun to play with who they're playing with.
    My son never wanted to get dirty either. In Pre-K, he would never finger paint because it was messy. My husband used to offer him money to get his clothes dirty at school. All that is in the past now. At 15, he gets as dirty as everyone else, but he still has a tender heart and is protective of other people and their feelings. The boy next door to us has autism and my son has defended him against neighborhood kids making fun of him many times. It is my prayer that he always uses the tenderness that God gave him to care about others and that he never loses that tenderness to our macho society. It makes me think of the movie "The Blind Side" when Michael rates a 98% in "Protection Quality" or something like that. He wants to take care of the people around him. My son has that, and it sounds like yours does too, and I hope they never lose it!
    I'm so glad to see that, even though the world might not value his tenderness, YOU do! And so does Jesus!

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  4. Beautifully said! Three of my boys are 'different', I cried as I read. I know that you poured out your heart on the page. Thank you for voicing what has floated around in my head and my heart. Amen to all that you said. Your son is beautiful and perfect!

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  5. I've had people say things about my because he was not a ruff and tuff boy, and it did bother me for a while. But I realized that his mannerisms were more off a reflection of mine than his father's, such as his dislike for dirty hands and his embarrassment of being seen without a t-shirt. There are all types of people in this world, showing compassion and love for another human is a trait that few can be genuine to and is in no way a weakness. I still baby my soft spoken, loving boy, who cries when he sees me cry, keeps the cleanest bedroom, is scared of riding all carnival rides, and who just turned 11.

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  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq-FOOQ1TpE you might want to read up on this kid, Jacob Barnett. He sounds a little like yours.

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  7. "But there will be more Wills. And they may not be so yielding."

    Exactly. That's why people tell you to toughen him up. My son is the exact same way. It's very easy to let yourself think this way and stop everyone else from calling him names, but that won't do him any good when he's getting beat up in the locker room at school. The world is cruel. I wish it wasn't. But coddling him and encouraging those negative traits is like sending a lamb into the lions den. It's a shame, it really is. I wish I could overlook my sons sissified crying everytime the wind blows in a direction that displeases him, and his penchant for walking around saying "Goo goo gaga!" (and he's 9), but if I do and he ends up getting beat up everyday or harrassed and bullied to the point where he commits suicide at 12 years old, that'll destroy me. I'd rather him have some tough love at home and grow into a strong, resilient man, than coddle and give in to him only for it to take a turn for the worst in a few years.

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