When I knew he was different.

I agreed to answer some questions regarding our oldest son for a college project. The first question was related to when I first thought he might be gifted. What happened? What signs? When he was about three years old, my son asked to play soccer.  His father and I enrolled him in a youth soccer league.  At his first game, which consisted of a team of kids gleefully running down a field and barely making contact with the ball while parents cheered, my husband and I noticed immediately that our son wasn’t ok.  When we pulled him to the side and asked him why he was crying, he answered that he was never going to be able to kick like the coaches, never going to have the trajectory and aim they did.  I knew then that our oldest was very likely gifted and already showing signs of high functioning anxiety.  Three year olds don’t typically know the word “trajectory” and if they do know it, they don’t use it correctly in a sentence.  Three year olds also don’t usually display perfectionism. They see a ball and chase it, kick it, laugh and play. They don’t typically worry initially about doing any of those things wrong. What I didn’t share was the grief I felt in that moment, knowing that my baby would struggle and his childhood would be salted with his own tears of self-doubt. I didn’t share that I felt guilty for wishing I was wrong. I remembered crying in the car, completely sure that my first B in math in middle school would keep me out of Columbia, and feeling utterly overwhelmed by my own existence. I didn’t want that for him. I would never want my son to believe I don’t want him to be who he is, but in that exact moment years back, I didn’t want him to be who he is because being who he is means pain is his sidekick. It will always be there, disrupting and causing mayhem, but never getting credit for the end result. My guilt also came from my own frustration, knowing that things would only get harder when they already felt hard enough. Beyond this, my own self-doubt was whispering in my ear— you knew you shouldn’t have had kids. If you had not had kids, this wouldn’t be happening. It was a desperate night and one that stays with me. Just a few weeks ago, my son cried in the kitchen fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave for school, angry with himself because he forgot to make corrections on a math test he had already scored a 101 on. I’m not in his brain, but I am in mine. I know he is living with pressures many will never comprehend and I just hope that my own perfectionism and insecurities don’t prevent me from being an anchor when he needs to rest or a lighthouse when he needs to see where home is.

2 thoughts on “When I knew he was different.

  1. This sounds a lot like Jackson. He is so hard on himself because he expects more from himself than anyone else.

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    1. Yes, and it’s so hard to be supportive while also not encouraging irrational thinking. It’s always a challenge for me, because I’m aware that countering too frequently will just be a different kind of hurt.

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