Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Houston, we have a (socialization) problem

I heard a speaker a while ago who made light of the ever-present, always annoying "s" word question. The speaker used the example of an homeschool-curious outsider asking about socialization by pointing out that he'd met a family of homeschoolers before and they were, frankly, weird.

"'Seriously?' I asked him. 'Because I went to a government school and there were weird kids there, too!'"

The speaker went on to explain that being in public school didn't fix "weird" kids. Kids who don't fit the social norms don't fare any better
(I'd argue that they fare worse) in a classroom than they do in a homeschool environment.

Nope. Off-beat is off-beat. Ain't nothin' gonna' make that chicken hatch a goose, as my Mamaw likes to say.

All of this is refreshing news because I have finally--finally--woken up to the fact that I if I were to start attending a Momma of Slightly Different Kids support group, I'd have to stand up and announce, "Hi! I'm Mary Grace and one of my kids is weird."

It's a good weird. A "don't laugh at that geek because he'll probably employ you in 20 years" kind of weird. But weird is still weird in the world of the playground. And yes, one of my kids is weird.

I'll just come out and tell you who it is. It's Atticus.

Yeah, go ahead and tell me you already knew that. Everyone else has/does. I don't see why the folks who know him only in the blogosphere should be any different. But people, realize that I see this little man through Momma Eyes, and what I see is Unique, Intelligent, Curious. Perfection, in a word. What others see, I now realize, is Strange, Geeky and Slightly Affected.

You know ... just your everyday "don't let that kid play with us" kind of stuff.

I finally opened my eyes to this after several instances where Atticus' lack of social know-how highlighted his tendency to be quaint and somewhat groovy while still shocking your socks off with his dazzling intellect. Try saying that in one breath and it'll give you a taste of what it's like to grapple at your thoughts when Atticus is on a roll.

Case in point #1: the six of us in the small, local sewing shop. The owner--a kindly, slightly older gentleman--is showing off the machine I've come in to look at. He asks the kids if they'd like to see his top-of-the-line embrodiery machine make a Mickey Mouse figure on a hoop of fabric.

"Gee whiz, Mister, I'd love to!" Atticus beamed. "You know, we went to Disney World a couple of years back."

The owner smiled and nodded politely. Atticus took this as an invitation.

"I love flying in planes. Have you ever flown in a plane? I think the best part is watching the wing flaps during a landing. It definitely scares me because, you know, if they mess up you end up dead. But all in all, it's a pretty swell application of physics."

The owner smiled and nodded politely. Atticus took a deep breath and prepared to continue, but felt my hand squeezing his shoulder. Enough, that hand said. You're scaring the locals, son.

Case in point #2: Atticus cornered a friend--one of my friends, mind you--at church on a Sunday morning to tell her how excited he was about an upcoming barbecue. I realized what wass happening and cut him off, but not before he had apparently sawed her ear for ten minutes. Later, in the bathroom, she confided with a giggle, "I had no idea he was due in June."

Mystified, I nodded. "Yeah, he was early. Both of the big boys were. Why did this come up?"

"Oh, honey," she laughed, "Atticus told me his whole life story. His whole. life. story. I think the only part he missed was his conception."

Holy gabber, Batman! Will somebody teach that kid when to shush already?!?!

Atticus, thankfully, is blissfully unaware that he sticks out like a sore thumb in society at large. His very good buddy, Tye, is cut from the same cloth and--thanks to his parents' commitment to being salt and light in the public school system--enjoys weekly therapy sessions at school. Being pulled out of math class to see the counselor probably doesn't help when it comes time to face the popular cliques on the dodgeball court, I'm thinking. But hey, I'm a homeschooler. What do I know?

What I do know is that I am upping Atticus' social skill instruction time. Gently, of course. It's time for Atticus to learn a little more about the social norms he'll encounter more and more as he grows. I want my son to know that I love every single unique, intelligent and curious thing about him. I want him to know that God created him to be the amazing young man he's growing into. That it was his Heavenly Father who made him to love mice, science, order, exclamations from the early 50s and dancing like no one is looking.

But I do want him to understand when his own light shines so very brightly that, well, it starts to blind folks.

That's the kind of socialization we'll be working on. The "reading other people" kind of socialization. The "when it's appropriate to share" kind of socialization. You can keep the counselor and the schoolyard bullies. The drug awareness, the sex ed. lessons and the pecking order. We're just trying to tone down our little bit of eclecticism over here. That's enough social prowess for me.


Liz said...

what a sweet boy he is :) . i love when kids talk my ear off personally. i hate when i ask a kids a question and it is met with a shrug or one word answer. i think it is great he has a lot to say!

Anonymous said...

Wow-- loved this. I have to interject that I *really* don't ALWAYS comment on blogs and manage to make it about ME and MINE...but DANG, you hit the nail on the head for me again. THAT is my one of my kids, too! :)

My challenge is to hold onto that wonder and fascination with my similar child when she comes to me in tears because she has just realized that she is "different" and doesn't fit in as easily....

Hopefully that isn't an issue for you guys.
Looking forward to reading more of your journey.


Beth said...

Oh, this got me to laugh out loud! Your son sounds fabulous! I especially love his use of "Gee whiz" and "swell." My son has been saying "nifty" lately, which cracks me up.

I love kids who aren't afraid to talk to me. Much more interesting than the ones who won't even make eye contact when you ask a simple question.

I'm curious to know Manolin's B-day... you may not feel comfortable sharing. My foster son turns 1 on June 3.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

Great post- I agree completely (not that your son is weird- I'll trust you on that one. I agree with your attitude about it.):-)

Deborah said...

This was such fun to read! I have a son very much like yours, except he tends to sprinkle movie quotes throughout his conversations. Oh and my husband is attempting to bring the word groovy back into use...he'd like your son.

Benny said...

Hehe. Snicker, snicker.

That Atticus, he's a hoot.

My kids all just think he's amazing. So no social weirdness here. ;o)

But let me know how those "reading other people" lessons go. We'll be starting those soon ourselves...


A.J. said...

My oldest sounds a lot like your Atticus! I love his spunk and desire to share with others. I try to use signals that it's time to hold his tongue. At his age I just don't want to "hush" him too often because the things he says are entertaining and they're like a window into him. But as he's getting older I can see that I need to do a little more of that kind of social skill work with him.

Thanks for sharing about your Atticus! He sounds precious.

Missus Wookie said...

There are some really useful "social story" books out there which go through some of those weird and wonderful rules that people expect you to know.

But as the parent to two weird/geek kids yeah it can be interesting to realize that others don't see them the same way as you.

Atticus is right tho - aerodynamics is a SWELL application of physics :)

The Hayes Zoo said...

This was priceless. I enjoyed every word.

I would have to stand up in a group too. :) Of course, that would be after I'd picked myself up off the floor from sheer mortification at what he'd just said, IN PUBLIC. :)

Gee wiz...thanks for the reminder that this is NOT a bad thing really.

Tanya said...

My oldest is like this too. You sound like you are a wonderful mom to him, and thoroughly enjoy him. :)