My daughter is a big picture thinker – an outside the box kind of person. Creative and intelligent, she scores in the gifted range when tested, but feels stupid. Why? Why would a child that can ponder the meaning of life and discuss it in adult detail possibly feel stupid? She can’t spell to save her soul. She cannot tell you what 5+5 is without using her fingers. She can solve complicated problems by sheer intuition, but she can’t tell you how she arrived at the answer. Her addition and subtraction skills are weak and her multiplication and division iffy.
She uses a calculator in school for basic computation and tries very hard to disappear altogether when the teacher tries to get her to participate in math class. Kids make fun of her. She is embarrassed and believes herself to be dumb. She doesn’t trust herself, often changing correct answers at the last minute. Classmates call her stupid and snicker when she pulls out the calculator. They tell her, “You can’t spell that? It’s so easy!” They want to know why she takes different tests than they do, and laugh at the chaos that is her desk and the notes she writes to remind herself to bring her books home.
At home I praise her creative thinking and tell her that it is going to take her far in life. I tell her that calculators, dictionaries and spell check was created for a reason. I read articles to her about well known scientists, physicists, doctors and mathematicians who struggled with spelling and basic math facts. I tell her that creative thinking is the absolute BEST part of having ADHD. I tell her to hold her head high and be proud of the gifts and talents she has been given and to never be afraid to use them.
Socially anxious, shy, and downright awkward I was bullied relentlessly in middle school. I lived in a nightmare world where I dreaded school. It hurts me when children are unkind to my child, but I know all too well that it happens. My daughter often says that it doesn’t matter to her if people don’t like her, but if they don’t like her, why can’t they just ignore her? Good question. She gets along well with kids a little older than herself, and is great with younger children. Her classmates? Not so much. Boys tend to like her better than the girls do, but she has never shared many of the more girly interests of her peers. She is a quirky child, maybe even “odd”. She loves music, theater, art, (especially modern art) and nature. She loves poetry and old movies. She ponders life, death and the moral code of the universe. She told me one day in a long conversation, where Heaven was located. Basically, she told me to imagine the worst place on earth. She told me to close my eyes and think of the most horrible circumstances imaginable, a place that seemed too dark and dismal for light to exist at all. She said that right in that spot was where Heaven was located, because right there was where it was needed the most. She told me that Heaven was inside of evil people because everyone had to have a spark of good in them, and Heaven resided where it was darkest and where there seemed to be no hope. Made perfect sense to me. She was about seven years old when she told me that, and I will never forget that conversation. We have discussions like that often, and her insights are always beautiful. Quirky, possibly, but I have always admired her mind and her ability to verbalize her thoughts.
She is trying to be a kinder, gentler version of herself to the kids that pick on her. In the past, when taunted, she felt the need to defend herself – loudly – always, always having the last word. Maybe not wrong, but I’ve told her to pick her battles, take small minded classmates with a grain of salt, and show people the person that the rest of us are lucky to know. The girl who is kind, witty, caring, empathetic, and loyal. What the girls that are mean to her don’t know, is if they were being bullied, she would defend them. If they were hurt, she would make sure they were okay.
Is my child perfect? Not by a long shot. My child, however, would never make fun of your child to make herself feel better, or to be liked, or for whatever reason kids pick on other kids. I know I am biased (as most parents are). I know I am overprotective of her feelings because of her anxiety issues and because of some complicated family issues. Even without the anxiety and ADHD, she has had to deal with quite a lot. She is hyper sensitive and prone to mood swings. I am lucky to be able to call her my own.
I tell her to never judge someone by how they are behaving because you never know what is going on in their world. She knows this is true. Things can look quite nice on the outside yet be full of problems and pain on the inside. As much as I love my child I can’t shelter her from everything. I wouldn’t want to. It is the struggles that make her stronger and the pain that makes her kind hearted and good. I know she will grow up to be a strong, confident woman because of her hardships, not in spite of them. I know what she will have to offer the world when only she begins to believe in herself.
I hope one day we can live in a world where no child is picked on, but I know despite what we as parents do, and despite what schools and lawmakers do, it will always be so. Children might be punished for their actions, but it is never going to stop the bullying. Not completely. There will always be cruel children taunting other children. I suppose it is an improvement just to have “zero tolerance” rules in place. It would be so much nicer to live in the fairy tale world where no one was ever cruel to another.
So, to my wonderful, quirky, chaotic, disorganized, silly, sweet, loving daughter – congratulations on a successful first week of middle school. Congratulations on trying to control your temper, on trying to organize your desk, and trying to remember that those who want to hurt you just might be hurting on the inside themselves. I’m proud of you.
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