When I was a kid, I was the ultimate nerd. I used to have to find different routes to go home to avoid getting beat up by the “cool kids”. I was that girl with the knappy hair and the HMO glasses that shadowed my entire face. And if I ever got cornered and my ass kicked, I would expect another beatdown from mama dukes when I got home for being “a pussy”.
My childhood was spent imagining to be someone that I wasn’t. To be that kid that was loved, and liked, and popular. Instead, I was the little girl who got her nose knocked in whenever it wasn’t hiding in a book; the girl who was getting the spitballs in her hair and her poetry journals torn up by the cute guy in class.
In that world in my thoughts, I dreamed of the life that I’m actually living right now. No, I don’t get beat up anymore. I wound up with the ultra sexy athletic guy and bore him a beautiful son. And my oldest child, I couldn’t be prouder of.
It still amazes me how as we get older, we still look for acceptance from our peers. Even though our priorities change, in some way shape or form, we do things that unconsciously need acceptance or approval. Because lets face it: no one enjoys being that pariah or target practice for the entertainment of others.
When we get promoted, we get criticized. When we get the ultra sexy guy, we get slandered. When we sever ties, we get bias judgement. And when we have a child with disabilities, we get looks of pity and ignorance.
And then, at some point, the layers come off. Even though the eyesight starts to go, and the grey hairs start to develop, things become more clear. And clarity comes in the form of different phases: it comes when you get that sweet paycheck and you know you worked hard for where you are; when the ultra sexy guy tells you that he loves you and you’re the sexiest thing walking in a pair of size 10’s and you think “damn, somebody actually loves me”; when years of memories and heartfelt conversations are completely forgotten and you think “lesson learned”; and when you get a call from your sons doctor saying hes gotta go under the knife again to let him have a somewhat normal life you think as a parent “whatever it takes to help him have a better life.”
A better life.
I brought my son Christopher to my job on Thursday. It was “bring your child to work day” and I was proud to have him sit at my desk, taking pictures and showing off what a handsome little papi he is. And then I was sitting with him in one of the board rooms, and there was someone else’s son there. A cute little 8 year old who was drawing and when I brought my son to the table, the little boy paused and just stared at him with this scared look on his face. Then he asked me in a soft spoken voice:
“What’s wrong with him? Is he sick? ”
In the past, when someone has asked me “whats wrong with him?” I give the usual clinical diagnosis, explain his disability and that’s usually the end of it. But this time, this was a young innocent little child who, in his innocence, asked me the same question, and I couldn’t give him a direct answer. I think it was the expression on his face that threw me off. That and the inching away he was doing when Chris made a movement.
“No, he’s not sick.” I said. “He just grows a little slower than other kids do.”
It’s amazing how simple questions can make you pretty much mute.
For some reason, I felt angry. Not angry at the boy, but angry with myself. Not being able to explain to a child what I had been able to explain a thousand times over to other people. I kept thinking, this would be an opportunity for a child to understand, for him to see that Chris is really no different in the essence of his spirit.
But how could I explain it when the words just wouldn’t come together? How am I going to explain it to his little brother when he comes of age?
I feel like that little girl again, hiding her nose in a book.