12 December 2011

Everything's not lost

Eighteen years ago, I was pregnant. Because I'd miscarried my first pregnancy, I focused on getting through the first trimester. Three months, I thought, and then all will be well.

The danger of knowing too little.

Well, of course, that was the most naive thought in the world, but I'd never been a parent. When the son had his first birthday, all I could think about was that he'd survived his first year, safe and healthy. I hadn't dropped him on his head, or my greatest fear, missed some desperately important symptom that would tell me he had meningitis or some terrible genetic anomaly.

The danger of knowing too much.

We knew what he was from the moment of birth, one of those wide-awake children who want to know it all, do it all, see it all, be it all. He was his mother, through and through. He was also a terribly frustrated infant because he was bored. Life got a little easier when he could do some things for himself. Ah, those times when I found him back in his room, reading to his toy trains, or putting Chapstick on their faces. I remember his excited and confused face when he awoke from a vivid dream. And there was his imagination--it knew no bounds, whether he was building weaponry out of plastic vegetables or recounting stories of a world of his own making. Such a bright spark.

I've written, ad nauseum probably, about the challenges of growing up profoundly gifted and of raising a profoundly gifted kid. But there is joy in both as well, a strange joy that is as complicated as the gift itself.

I can't say how many hours of sleep I've lost over this kid. I followed my gut. I followed common sense. I followed love. I instilled discipline. I instilled responsibility. I instilled morality.

I worried.

I know what it is to grow up isolated. I know what it is to hide. I know what it is to feel like an imposter in all I do. I know what it's like to want to reach out to the rest of world and not know how to do it. I didn't want that for him.

I raged. I fought. I was sick with despair. I ignored the fashion, the herd, the conventional wisdom. I paid for it. But I ran with my heart and my head; I let him run with his.

And I worried. I feared that in my stubbornness and hubris, I would ruin him. That I was, in fact, doing it wrong.

But he's grown into this amazing person. We see it, his teachers see it, his friends see it, others see it.

None of this has ever been about me. I know too many people who want to exploit their children's status to elevate their own. I have my own gifts, my own life, my own loves. Raising him has been about him, about allowing him his gifts, about giving him the love, the understanding, the support and even the tough talk to enable him to use them well, but in a way of his choosing.

Bit by bit, especially in the last year, things are falling together. He's stubborn, too, but he'll figure it out. He's close to launch, and I think he'll be alright. I'm coming to the place where I've given him about all the guidance that I can, at least for now, but I think I'll be turning him over to those who are capable of helping him to continue his journey.

I'm not so naive anymore to think it will be all smooth sailing, but I hope the bumps are few and minor.

That's the reality of knowing enough.

Go listen to some music: "Everything's Not Lost" from the album Parachutes by Coldplay. The son received his first college acceptance today. The relief and gratitude is immense. The fun of figuring out how to pay for it is just beginning, and we await more news as the week progresses.

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