When your kid isn’t like the other kids…

When your kid isn't like the other kids... by Keri Kettle

When the prom pictures and the graduation photos start showing up on FaceBook, I get a little twinge in my stomach.  My girl won’t be going to prom.  She could go to the high school graduation at her independent study high school program but she won’t.  I am still trying to talk her in to having a graduation party.  She is still reminding me that she hates parties.  I am trying to remember that if the point is to celebrate her, I should do that in the way she wants to be celebrated, not in the way I think she is supposed to be celebrated.

She isn’t like the other kids.

She doesn’t find these rituals of American teenage life compelling at all.  In fact, she is completely baffled at why anyone would want to go through them.  The idea of dressing up and going to a big party full of her peers is her anxious, introverted heart’s worst nightmare.

So my FaceBook feed fills with groups of adorably awkward teens, laughing and trying to balance in their new heels. There are the proud announcements of college selections with parents flanking their kid wearing a cap and gown. These are pictures that I thought I would have with her, but I won’t.

She isn’t like the other kids.

Make no mistake, I do not need or want pity.  This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you about the boy in the wheelchair who gets rolled onto the prom dance floor or the girl who happens to have Down’s Syndrome gets asked to Homecoming.  To be honest, those posts kind of piss me off.  OF COURSE a kid in a wheelchair should get to enjoy his prom.  EVERY girl who wants to go to Homecoming should go (whether she is asked or not).  None of these children are broken by their difference.  I heard a young man in a wheel chair on television this morning say that even if he could go back and change events so he wasn’t injured, he wouldn’t – he is not unhappy with who he is today.

I am not unhappy with who my kid is, I wouldn’t change a thing about her.  She is perfectly who she is and the world is better for it.

But I do sometimes feel very alone in parenting a kid who is different.  It can be isolating to be the mom that isn’t sharing in the experiences that everyone else is having on FaceBook and Instagram.  The beauty of social media is when it reminds us of how we are all in this together – with our messy kitchens, our piles of unfolded laundry and our heavy pours of Chardonnay on a Sunday afternoon.  The difficulty of social media is when it makes us feel like we are left out.  Like everyone else is getting to have experiences that you thought you would get to have, too.

This post is for the moms of all the kids who aren’t like the other kids.

I want you to know it’s okay to grieve for the motherhood you thought you were going to have.

I want you to know that having these feelings doesn’t mean you love your kid any less.

I want you to know it’s okay to celebrate your kid in the way that makes them feel safe and loved and if your parents or your siblings or your in-laws think you should be doing it differently, it’s okay to stand up for your kid and say, “no, I won’t make my kid miserable or uncomfortable to fit your ideas of how things should be” (and it’s okay to give them a moment to have their own bit of grief because they are probably a little sad under that judgment).

I want you to know that you are doing an amazing job at this mama business.  It is hard to build your own path while every one else seems to be gliding down one that is already paved (btw, no one is gliding, it only looks like that from a distance).

Now, let’s go have a dance party (even if it’s just us in the kitchen).

Please share your thoughts.