I sent my son to middle school today. Actually I sent both kids to middle school today, but it was particularly significant for my son. When people meet my son, they instantly fall in love with his larger than life personality. He was born to be an actor and he was meant to have the spotlight. This generally contradicts my deep and insatiable desire to stay as invisible as possible. It has been a struggle I have lost with as much grace as I can muster. He is also one of the smartest kids I know. (I know, I’m the mother. I am supposed to say that.) He can hear a story and repeat it almost word for word six months later. Honestly, that’s part of the problem.
You see, my son’s brain is a bit disconnected sometimes. He doesn’t learn using the more traditional methods. He needs more rules, more structure and more multi-sensory ways of taking in information. This is particularly true in reading and writing. He doesn’t have a diagnosis. If you look at all the typical diagnoses and their checklists, he will check off three out of 25. And his elementary school was non-traditional in its approach and did not push him. While that maintained his love of reading until he figured it out, it didn’t give him the structure to learn writing. He used his incredible smarts to figure out reading through context. So now he has a tutor and is learning to write. And it’s working. It is happening at lightning speed. But honestly, it has affected his confidence.
So as I sent him off to a traditional public middle school this morning, I was anxious. And I knew he was too. He spent the night before peppering me with questions. What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t get it? It was gut-wrenching to hear his anxiety. He normally puts up such a confident front. And while I was glad he would talk with me still, I could not help but think how I might have failed my little genius with his unique brain. I should have seen it sooner. I should have seen how he was compensating. I shouldn’t have let his lack of diagnosis stop me from intervening. I should. I shouldn’t. I should. I shouldn’t.
There is only one thing more complicated than parenting and that is parenting with trauma. We are wired to blame and shame ourselves for anything and everything. We project our problems on to our children. We struggle to tolerate their painful emotions and stay present. And I have fought hard to heal. I have fought hard to change the way I respond to my trauma triggers and heal the traumatic emotions of my past. I have done it for me. But I have done it for my kids too. And sometimes the futility gets to me. It tells me if I was healed, my kids would lead perfect lives. They would be happy all the time if I had done my job. Of course, I know better than to believe that. But it nags at me.
What is happening with my son has been confusing. There are bits of this and bits of that. There are social and educational struggles that resemble autism, dyslexia and dysgraphia, but none of them are significant enough to bring a diagnosis. And it has always left me wondering what is going on. But I woke up the other morning with a realization. What if this is the healing? I know this work on myself has dramatically affected my children. They express the same emotions. They feel the same physical shifts in their bodies. They have calmed down with me. What if my son would have had a diagnosis? What if these are the remnants of something that would have been much more impactful on his life? What if this isn’t a problem? What if this is a success story? What if my trauma-recovery is healing my children (and the generations to come) in ways that I can’t fathom? And that is saying something because my awareness is highly developed at this point.
I am not saying this to start a huge philosophical battle about the connection between trauma and learning differences. Actually, I won’t engage in that. I deeply know that trauma is connected to everything and nobody can convince me otherwise. And I am not looking for advice either. I have many amazing people helping us. I just want to pass along what I am learning. What might appear as a problem today might have been so much worse. We can never know what would have been before we made our brave choices. We can’t go back and travel those roads. But know there may be progress you can’t understand in your logical brain. There may be things happening you will never prove to yourself and others. Your butterfly might be flapping its wings and creating something magnificent, something you can never fully understand.