If you’ve spent any time around this website at all, you know that this is the place where we have and love quirky kids, different kids, outlier kids, outside-the-box kids. Our kids are statistically divergent, anomalies, the far ends of the bell curves, the “some” that are left out of “one size fits most”. Our kids are the different ones, often standing out, rarely blending in, usually requiring more, too often offered less.
Our kids can be exhausting, draining. We exhaust our bodies, our emotions, our resources just trying to keep up with them, advocate for them, meet their needs and fill their tanks. We attend meetings, therapies, appointments. We read blogs and books and forums. We do a lot in attempts to ease the otherness that our children experience, to help them fit in, to soften the bluntness of their sore thumb existence. But you know what I say now, after years and tears spent trying to force my square peg children into the round holes of society? I say forget the box.
Innovation, invention, immensely important leaps forward in humanity, they all come from the people who thought outside the box. People who bucked the system, people who saw a different angle, people who questioned, explored, and dared to be different. Man made it to space by leaving the pack, cured disease by looking closer. Every major work, event, invention, and philosophy has been born of pushing past where lines had previously been drawn, abandoning convention, and just forgetting about the confines of the box.
Our different kids live in a confusing time, where those outside the box are celebrated in the media but rebuked in the classroom. We share stories of those who push the boundaries then attend meetings in an attempt to make our children fit in. The world embraces those outside the box, while the playground exiles them.
Our different kids feel it. They know they’re different kids. The people around them know they’re different kids. They stick out, get left out. For all of the celebration of differences and the novelty of divergence, so many kids just want to fit in. If we’re honest, for the most part, we want our kids to fit in. We want our kids to have normal childhoods, plenty of friends. We want their lives to be smooth sailing. We want them to be different, but only in the best ways, in the ways that earn them accolades and not admonishment.
We sigh when we get the emails from teachers, from parents, from co-op leaders. We know that when we pick them up from whatever activity they’ve been involved in, there will likely be someone waiting to tell us a story of some kind. When the team is running left, our kid isn’t even running right – they’re sitting in the middle of the field, watching a beetle make its way through the grass. When a question is multiple-choice, our kid overthinks it and finds 3 more possible answers that aren’t even options. When we falter they point it out. When we use metaphors they want to be literal. When a group of children is gathered, our different kids just stand out.
So much of our time as parents is spent comparing our children to the norm, the average, the rest of the bunch. Height percentiles, developmental milestones, is he sleeping through the night yet? There are grade-level expectations, social cliques and hierarchies, pediatrician questionnaires, and the ever-present social media. Comparisons are all around us, ready to reassure us that everything is as it should be, or to give us quantifiable proof that our kids are different. We are always reminded that our kids just don’t fit inside the box.
So let’s forget the box.
Let’s embrace what makes them different, what’s so unique about who they are. Let’s not make apologies when they stand out, but smile because they don’t blend in. Let’s encourage them to be themselves. Let’s demand that the world make room for them instead of begging our children to shrink.
Let’s look with pride upon the sore thumbs, the distinctive, the different. Let’s get to know who are different kids really are instead of trying to force society’s identity upon them. Okay, so they don’t fit in, they’re not like the others, they always draw attention or make things more difficult.
They’re already aware they’re different, they’re not fooling anyone. The cat is out of the bag, so let’s let them live outside of the box.
These different kids of ours are gifts, have gifts. They are a celebration of all that isn’t yet and a hint of all that can be. Where one might see a sore thumb, a blip, an anomaly, we can see the jewel in the miner’s trough, the flower among the grasses. Where boxes exist to keep others in check, they exist only as launching pads for our kids.
Forget the box.
Don’t measure where your child doesn’t fit into it, free them of the thing entirely.
If your child doesn’t fit, then let them be free. If they’re constantly having to reduce themselves in order to keep the peace, then it’s their own peace they’re sacrificing. Let them be. Let them go. Love who they are. Love who they can be. Forget what society expects. Forget what comparisons say. But above all, forget the box.