My son is a winner.
And although I know this...sometimes, HE does not.
See...my son is INSANELY bright. And he has an INCREDIBLE imagination. He also has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He is the sweetest and most tender boy. He puts a lot of passion into things, and therefore suffers a lot of heartbreak when they don't work out. He's a fiercely loyal friend. He is blessed with faith...he believes things, even against insurmountable odds. Like Santa Claus. And dragons.
These are things I love about Joseph.
But they are also the things that bring him down.
His whimsical nature gets him labeled as immature (at best) and lazy (at worst). His teachers see his almost constant state of daydreaming as a major life obstacle. This has earned him a diagnosis of ADHD, for which he takes medication. He is bright enough to answer complex math questions straight from his head, but totally unable to tell you how he came up with the answer. He'll absorb everything he sees and make amazing connections that leave his parents and teachers surprised and bewildered, but he can barely read a few paragraphs without coaching, or write down his ideas legibly for others to read. We can thank his dyslexia for that. He can tell you all about his thoughts and dreams and discoveries...but you have to listen really carefully, because his speech delay makes him hard to understand.
So although he's bright and beautiful and amazing, his teachers find him "difficult" and a "challenge to work with", and have even gone so far as to call him "disruptive", although when I ask them if he is acting out in class, they tell me that, No, he's not exactly acting out, but they find it distracting that he always seems to be more interested in what's going on outside the window or inside his desk than what they are currently lecturing. He's not riveted on their every word...and that bothers them. Luckily, he spent most of his day with a speech/reading/and language specialist. But recently, that's changed as they try and "wean" him off ESE in preparation for Middle School. the transition has been, well - let's just say it's "rocky".
Watching Joseph struggle in school is like catching a magnificent butterfly in a glass jar. It flutters about helplessly, an exquisite being of nature, but is trapped inside a confined space surrounded by an invisible barrier. The butterfly will desperately beat it's wings against it's glass prison, unable to escape, or even fully extend it's glorious wings. It's beautiful...but imagine how much more beautiful it would be if it were free to fly as high and far as it was capable, without any strings or walls or tightly sealed lids.
With teachers already bringing attention to his quirks, it doesn't take brain surgery to figure out that his peers smell an easy kill. Kids at this age are cruel, and they seek out differences in others as justification for torment. Joseph has always had a hard time making friends. He has historically been an object of ridicule with other kids. He likes sports, but is not a star at any one thing. He prefers to make up imaginary worlds at recess and play a part in his fantasy than shoot hoops. That means he spends a good deal of time at recess playing on the playground equipment and talking to himself. He gets teased for reading slow and mispronouncing words, and for the lisp in his speech. His clothes are hand-me-downs and usually patched or a little too big.
He is VERY good-looking, with big green eyes and an easy smile, and always a gentleman...he holds doors for girls and says "please" and "thank you". He is a little shy at times, and then over-the-top gregarious at others. Last year was the first year the boys in his class started calling him a "fag" (which he, innocently enough, believes has something to do with the fact he wears glasses).
Can I say that my son is better than all these kids combined?
This year in my Christmas letter, I wrote about how Joseph has tried really hard this year to get out of his comfort zone and try new things. He ran for Student Body Vice President (he lost, but he tried). He joined an after-school Environmental Club, and a before-school Orchestra class. He also joined an after-school athletic program run by local law enforcement. The first semester they played kick ball. He was always chosen last or sent out to left field, but he kept coming back for every practice (I think he may have been happier in left field, where he could stare at the sky and spin around in circles, or catch ladybugs in the clover). When the second semester rolled around, the coach (police officer) let him re-join to play Flag Football, where he plays a center guard. He likes that he can "hike" the ball. I encouraged him to try out for the school track team, and he told me he wasn't a fast runner...but he went to try-outs anyway. He didn't make the team, but he placed second in the long jump. He tries hard in Cub Scouts, and has almost earned his Arrow of Light...completing almost every activity badge in the book.
I am so very proud of him.
And I love that when we bought him a book called The Care and Keeping of Dragons, he actually believed that it was a real handbook...and asked me for weeks if we could get a dragon as long as he promised to build a safe enclosure for it in the backyard. Maybe I'm a terrible mom, but I eventually told him that our lease agreement had a "No Dragons Clause" because of fire hazard, and we would have to wait until we owned our own home again. He accepted my explanation, but still continues to sketch plans for the perfect dragon pen so he'll be ready when we move.
I don't want him to change. To accept reality. To be any different than he is. His challenges in school have taught him to work harder. His challenges with friends have made him more compassionate to others. And now he's learning to stretch his wings and try new things.
Glass jar be damned...I believe someday he'll break free and be the most amazing creature anyone has ever laid eyes on. A fragile butterfly no more...but a powerful dragon, which no prison, physical or mental, will be able to hold.
And I am writing all this just to tell you that my boy won "Best Use of Theme" in our annual Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet Dessert Contest last night. He made "Edible Eagles" (the theme was "Americana"). Click here or go to the "Jungle Food Chain" link on the right side of this page.
He was awarded a certificate and a Yo-yo...which hasn't left his hands since he got it. Even though I asked him to leave it at home, I'm sure it went to school with him, where I'm sure he'll play with it in his desk while the teacher is talking, successfully driving her nuts. He'll be transfixed with the way the light glances off it's beveled surface and glitters on the metal sides of his desk. It'll make him think of a vast treasure of rubies horded by hulking trolls that live in the mountains. And before you know it...Joseph will be gone...the only evidence of his existence being an empty shell of a boy sitting in a chair at a desk in a school...
...while his mind lengthens it's mighty leathery wings to soar through icy skies on buffeting winds, yearning to reach the distant purple peaks in pursuit of sparkling ruby treasure.