Just a Word

I cringe each time I hear it.  The first time I heard it was from good friends.   The wife had become a close friend and we shared the births of our first born children together, only a few weeks apart.  She had watched and observed my child from birth and knew him almost as well as I did.  When she said it, and she still tells me, I was modest and brushed it off as a nice compliment.

I would hear it again from preschool.  But he is my child and I see him through loving mother eyes.  I gloat like most moms at his ability to grow and hit his milestones.  He crawled at 4 months and took his first steps in his 8th month, mastering walking in his 9th.  Not completely unusual, but early none the less.

The pediatrician who had known him since he helped deliver him also would mention it at visits as he watched him evolve.  We would see this Dr. for not only regular check-ups but as we dealt with his development of asthma.  Sadly we lost this wonderful doctor too soon, he would have surely held our hand and reiterated the words we’d come to hear again and again.

Strangers say it within moments of meeting him, it oozes out of him.  I can’t separate myself from what I know of him to see what others see.  How do they know so quickly? What is it that he says or does or it is how he holds himself?  I know when adults are threatened by it, when they are uncomfortable and he too senses it.  It becomes something that defines relationships and I am always confused by it.

The year he first entered the public schools we’d hear conflicting information.  As a parent your gut is stronger than what any PhD can tell you, and an inexperienced new teacher is even worse.  They twist words as to make their concerns seem less insulting, but each phone call, each meeting distanced me from reality.  I allowed myself to believe some of the lies and the inconsistencies.  I allowed myself to question what I felt in my gut, my heart and even my head.  Yet, those who knew me and my child on a personal level, they were consistent, they repeated what I’ve heard since very early in my mothering evolution.

We’d soon find ourselves in the offices of professionals, those who study the minds and development of the human race.  They then go on to be the experts and we are to accept what they say as reality.  I heard it again, blunt and in my face.  It was there and I was to accept it for face value, and those who questioned it were too.  Here it is, end of story.

That was the first in a line of professionals who would blurt out these words, not too many variations on the theme.  Always it seems that it is to be a reassurance, an excuse.  Those words were said as if it is a fail safe investment, some guarantee to the future.  I live with those words, they are my reality and they are not comforting.

These words scare me, they give me more of an un-knowing than any reassurance.  They open a lot of possibilities and a lot of danger.   Maybe if the rest of my child’s personality type, his profile, was more text book and predictable I could find comfort in hearing these words repeatedly.  They are not a blanket I can wrap myself in.  These words resemble a nearly bottomless pit for me.  Only a small part is beginning to accept hearing them, even from some unsuspecting places.

I heard it again just yesterday.  We now homeschool our children and the joy of homeschooling is that we find people who are open and understanding.  They work well with a variety of personalities and parenting styles.  Our sons’ drama teacher is exuberant and wonderful.  Yesterday was a day of performing the skits they had been working on for a few weeks.  A very non threatening environment, just a rug in the room they normally play and perform in.   Only 4 other moms in the room, but suddenly this child who has a sign over his head, he froze and hid under my chair.  The plays went on and I enjoyed the spot light on my younger son for a change.

It was after the wrap up.  The children all bundled up leaving and the moms saying their appreciations to the teacher that I heard it.  I expected a brief comment on the change in temperament from the usual class clown to the turtle in his shell under my chair child.  But out it came, and it took me aback, and I watched the face of another mother, who maybe knows these secrets I keep.  With a small smile on her face she stepped back and allowed for a more private conversation.

It is a double edged sword these words, this reality I know:

“He is very intelligent”


It is always, and always will be, followed by a disclaimer, a warning, a concern.   It is an verb that predicates his being, his actions . . . my child.


I hear it.  I know it on some level.  It is never said without a follow up.  I live it, I love him and I see him as a child not for the neuron connections he does have, and those he lacks, but he is mine, smarts and all!


Comments (2)

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  1. Dawn Suzette says:

    Thank you for sharing. As I read your words I was there. It all sounded so familiar. Homeschooling has been the best thing for us too and I love how you describe the understanding you find within the hs community. We have found the same.

  2. Nick Turner says:

    Very insightful article and a much needed lesson in perspective for me.

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