As I pushed my daughter in the cool spring-like air I felt a warm hand grip mine all of a sudden, holding on tightly and pulling at me. Considering that my older son was flitting around in another area of the playground, I knew the hand that gripped mine was an interloper. I looked down to find a boy, younger than my son, older than my daughter, looking up at me and pulling me towards the swing next to mine.
“Do you want to swing?”
The boy nodded.
I’m a parent and I love kids, so if some random kid on the playground wants to grab my hand and silently suggest that he’d like a boost into the swing, I’ll oblige. So I did, and moments later his mom rushed up, embarrassed, apologizing, clearly flustered that her apparently non-verbal child had accosted a total stranger in his search for a turn on the swing, that I was having to deal with her weird kid. I smiled at her and assured her that it was no problem for me to help her son. But I wanted to tell her something else. I wanted to tell her that I understood more than she realized.
Parents of weird kids, you are not alone.
How do I know this? I am the parent of a weird kid. The one that was flitting in and out of the play equipment, a flash of red and fluffy blond hair. The one that is currently upside down on my couch as I squeeze in a few minutes of writing between wiping runny noses and preparing dinner. The one that rarely just walks but goes through life dancing by my side.
Life with a weird kid is isolating. You spend a lot of time tamping down that parental anxiety when your kid is freaking out and it seems like all the other kids are sitting nicely and cooperating. You explain over and over that your kid just doesn’t like circle time or story time or most organized activities. I’ve learned over time to respect my son and the way he functions, and there are a lot of activities we simply cannot do because he can’t handle them. I’ve learned that the reason it seems like all the other kids can cope is that the parents with the weird kids are staying home. I’ve felt completely and utterly alone as seemingly everyone else went around with their perfectly normal, average kid.
A few months back, I wrote that my son had never been bullied at his Texas public school. Perhaps it was inevitable, given that Waylon... Read more
The playground is the great equalizer. All kids love to run and jump and play. All kids love to swing, especially my non-verbal little friend, who later rummaged through my bag, whipped off his hat and put mine on. His mother apologized profusely again and I grinned and proclaimed it rather cute. After all, on a previous visit my kid was the one running around after a group of older boys and hissing at them. When I asked if he was trying to play with them he just replied, “I like to hiss.” The playground is where the weird kid mixes in with the other kids and you get those anxiety ridden parental interactions because they know their kid is not the norm, that he or she is someone special.
Call it what you will. High-Functioning Autism. Quirky. Walking to the beat of a different drum. Sometimes I call it having a weird kid, because, honestly I have a weird kid. For my son the official label is sensory defensiveness. He is a wonderful boy who spends a lot of time responding to stimuli in his world. As he grows older and more aware, we will work with him, and for him, to be the best he can be while remaining true to who he is. I know he’s my weird kid but all he knows is that he’s a boy who loves Angry Birds, Star Wars, and his parents, and I work hard to keep it that way.
Later that day my son and I went to Trader Joe’s and we came across another mother and son shopping. The mother was reminding the son to watch his body space, to be aware that we were behind him, using a mildly irritated tone. I know how she feels. About the one millionth time you remind your kid about the social mores we grownups take for granted, about the basic sense of proprioception most of us don’t even think about, you feel fatigued. I smiled again and told her it was totally fine. Because it was. Later the same kid came up and told me where the stuffed animal that gains you some sort of treat was hidden, a little awkward, a little abrupt, but he was open and sweet and willing to talk to an adult instead of being shy, and thoughtful.
So, parents of weird kids everywhere, you are not alone. We’re out there, but not always in plain view. We’re on the playground. We’re in the stores. We get it, and we’re happy to have your kid be his or herself around us, just like I was perfectly happy to hoist a kid who wasn’t mine, who could only make a request by placing his hand into mine, into the swing and push him for a little while on a warm springish day.
Comments on I am the parent of a weird kid, and I know I’m not alone
“The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents — because they have a tame child-creature in their house.” -Frank Zappa
“The one that rarely just walks but goes through life dancing by my side.” THIS!!! Kids are so good at being free and joyful, we silly adults could really learn a thing or two from them.
I am the parent of a weird kid and I absolutely loved this! Could not have said it better myself! My son is a sensory seeker but in some areas is sensory defensive. Its hard to explain it to others but to me, my son is freaking awesome and wouldn’t have it any other way. Also I totally get what you mean about the park. It is my favorite place because it doesn’t matter if he’s weird there, he can be himself and no one says anything to the contrary.
Thank you so much for this. I really needed to hear that I’m not alone! I run a home day care, and my son is the “weird” kid in a sea of seemingly normal kids. He has a speech delay, but is mostly a happy boy who prefers his own company, or the company of Mommy and Daddy, over anyone else. And normally it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes I can see other parents trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with him, and it makes me defensive. So…yeah, thank you for reminding me that my son isn’t the only “weird” kid out there!
As another parent of a weird kid, YES!! I was a weird kid. My friends are grown up weird kids. It’s not easy, but it’s who we are and it’s hard to find others like us.
There is amazing strength in weirdness. Rock on weird kids who grow up to parent weird kids.
Hey Sacha, I loved this article. Turns out all of my boys have been the ones who march to the beat of a different drum. I don’t even know what it’s like to parent a “typical” kiddo. Thanks for sharing your story!
Hi Amanda! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I could just kiss you. This really needed to be said!
I initially read this as “I could just hiss at you”! Love it!
This is great!! My little boy just turned 3 a week ago and he is the most amazing kid but he has tons of energy. I actually stopped taking him to story time at the public library because he just won’t sit still. Now I have to pick him up at daycare and you would think he is tired after playing all day, but…nope..so, playground it is!
I’m a librarian and my child rarely sits still at storytime. Most public library staff understand that some kids can’t sit still. Please keep going to the library and storytime.
I love librarians so much! In our case my son really doesn’t like story time, and he does way more than not sit still to send the message of his dislike. But we still love the library – although I’m not always convinced that they love us since they sometimes try to bribe my kids into not running circles around the stacks by giving them stickers.
Thank you so much! I will try again to take him to story time, the thing is that he just doesn’t run around the room but he starts to bother other kids. Last time I had to take him outside like three times! He’s been going to daycare fulltime for about a month and I’ve noticed he’s getting a little better at listening. I LOVE my son but some times is very exhausting!!
“You spend a lot of time tamping down that parental anxiety when your kid is freaking out and it seems like all the other kids are sitting nicely and cooperating. You explain over and over that your kid just doesn’t like circle time or story time or most organized activities.”
To waste that much energy apologizing because your kid doesn’t fit into a One Size Fits All society, doesn’t acknowledge that no one really fits into a One Size Fits All system….but it sure does let the kid know that they’re somehow not right because they don’t fit in.
The idea that we must apologize for kids’ regular behavior (whether the kid is labeled “weird” or not) is not okay. It basically tells the kid that they’re a nuisance or burden on others for things like simply asking for a push on a swing, or making noises, or flailing. It sends the message that they shouldn’t ask for help, or that their (probably normal – especially for children) behavior is somehow wrong.
Also, to be clear, I am the parent of a kid who is often labeled as “weird” by others…and frankly, it pisses me off (for *all* of the kids who are othered in this way)…..each time they are called weird, they are told that their regular behavior is wrong and they should change who they are to fit into a socially acceptable mold. It’s important to make sure that language doesn’t hurt our kids, and I know that the intent is to embrace that they’re different, but using terms like “weird” (which hold negative connotations) just further sets them apart from what is seen as “normal.” (And I’m personally of the opinion that we should be tearing down the ideas of “normalcy,” instead of accepting that most people don’t fit that limited notion.)
I totally get what you’re saying, and I agree wholeheartedly that it would be better to expand our definition of normal than to brand more kids as weird. I think, though, not everyone has the self-confidence and faith in themselves as parents to stand strong against the pressure to conform… the author is just reaching out and saying, you’re not alone. And also, by the way, your kid is fine! – Just not like everyone else. I know that I needed to read this and a lot of other people do too.
You might be reading into this a little. Saying, “My kid doesn’t like circle time” is in no way an apology.
my wife and I actually debated about this piece when I wrote it. I don’t feel it’s not loving toward my son, but I am labeling him in a public manner. Do I tell my sweetness that he’s a weird kid. Not at all, and I stated that in the piece. Is he outside the norm. Yes, he is. But this piece isn’t about HIM, it’s about us as parents. It’s really hard to adjust your own expectations in order to let your child be free to be his or her self. At times it’s heartbreaking because you give up your own dreams to let your child has his or hers, but it’s so worth it. To know that you’re not alone in this, that other people struggle to allow their kids weirdness to shine through, is important. It will help all people become better parents. In the end I decided to submit this piece despite labeling my kid, briefly, as weird, because reducing parental anxiety and daylighting things makes all of us better at this job of raising wee ones, and because being a parent is about being able to learn at grow all of the time. Even if it hurts a little.
I totally agree, and I think that the intent of your article is awesome. I apologize if my comment seemed to imply that you’re not loving towards your son; that’s not AT ALL what I meant. I just meant that words can have a huge impact (especially words that usually carry negative connotations), and it’s important to consider how labeling our kids will affect them. And I’m not saying you’ve never considered that; I only have this article to go off of, and the consideration of the language choice wasn’t mentioned. I just know that people labeling me as “weird” as a kid made me feel even more isolated than I already was in being so different than the perceived norm in a small town, and I see the hurt in my own kid’s eyes when he’s been called terms like that, so I am extra vigilant about my own word choice. (And I like to start conversations about it to get people discussing it.)
Anyway. Thanks for the article, and the thoughtful discussion! 🙂
I’m totally reminded here of Rob Rummel-Hudson’s (who’s written for us several times) thoughts on calling his disabled daughter “broken”: http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/2009/12/on-things-which-i-really-should-let-go.html
I totally recommend reading Rob’s piece — it’s a fascinating take on this issue.
I think this is an amazing write up! I have a lot of experience in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and I’ve seen so many parents come in wanting their kids to be “normal”. There is such a large spectrum of “weirdness”, most of which requires a lot of patience and understanding on part of the parents (in some cases this is extremely taxing on the parents). I love that someone was able to write a blog on this, and let parents know they aren’t alone, regardless of where one’s child falls in that spectrum.
Also- in the case of the patients I’ve had, parents really enjoyed connecting with other parents who also have similar experiences with their kids. Like you mentioned- its nice to not feel alone.
Thanks so much for writing this! I hope to see more of these types of blogs in the future 🙂
I love this! Thank you so much. It helped me accept my son so much more when I realized that I wasn’t alone, and that is truly in his best interest.
This made me a little misty. I totally welcome your weird kid. After all, she was me, a long time ago.
I see a touch of weirdness in my son and I hope life doesn’t wrench it out of him.
Love this! As a parent of a weird kid, even one with stay at home parents, it is entirely isolating to worry about why he won’t sit still, why he loves aggressively with body engulfing hugs, why he can’t seem to find kids to hang with at the park, either younger or older than he is. But then he sings you “You are my Sunshine” in his made up language, or baffles his grandparents by using the word “apply” correctly, and sometimes it feels completely ok.
I spent a lot of time knowing I was “weird” and wishing I was like everybody else, or that I was dumb so I wouldn’t always be over thinking and complicating everything. But now as an adult, I’m glad I was the way I am. Normal = boring. I get a little frustrated because i have a hard time finding people that I really connect with. But I’ve learned that it’s not a “me” problem.
It does piss me off that other people look at us askance and think I’m not doing my job as a parent because my son can’t sit still, doesn’t enjoy mandated activities, and has no sense of personal space. He’s wild and creative and extremely sensitive and loving. He gets easily overstimulated like his mother.
I don’t want school and society to crush all of the weirdness out of him. I’m desperate to homeschool him but because of the custody arrangement I have with my ex-husband, his dad, I can’t.
You made me cry. My son’s severe ADHD, which means he really still doesn’t know how to function socially, and our family preoccupations with geeky stuff makes both of us double weird. he has zero friends, and he wants them, desperately. I feel so helpless, and wish I knew ANYONE with weird kids he could play with.
Thank you for this.
I was a weird kid (and am now a weird adult). My husband was/is the same. So imagine our non-surprise to get one of our own! In reality they are both a little weird and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have conversations that I never would have imagined having because they just see a different side of things.
“I’ve learned that the reason it seems like all the other kids can cope is that the parents with the weird kids are staying home. I’ve felt completely and utterly alone as seemingly everyone else went around with their perfectly normal, average kid. “
These lines in particular hit home (thank you for them!), but this whole piece was beautiful and made me tear up a little bit. Your weird kid is lucky to have such a great, understanding parent.
Thank you for putting words to something that can be so difficult to explain.
I have a “weird” kid and while some days he can be exhausting to parent, he’s the raddest kid I’ve ever known.
Rock on mama – your boy is lucky to have you.
I think all kids are weird. Some more than others and in varying degrees. I liked how it was put in Fantastic Mr. Fox:
Mrs. Fox: I know what it’s like to feel different.
Ash: I’m not different, am I?
Mrs. Fox: We all are — him especially — but there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?
I love this!!!!! My boy is so fantastic.
In my family, “you are very odd” is a synonym for “I like you a lot”. I never figured out when I was a weird kid that weird could be a good thing, but parenting a weird kid made it gloriously obvious.
I don’t really think a child that talk to new people or need help on the swingset and ask the nearest adult available is “weird” in any way… To interact with people and tell all the people at the store that they have just lost a tooth/have a friend called Liza/have a new shirt on, is for me normal behaviour that I see with other kids all the time…
when I wrote this I realized that I wasn’t entirely conveying the experience. It wasn’t the actions of the boy as much as the reaction of his mom. She was apologizing over and over for her kid, clearly embarrassed. And he was a little old to be interacting with me in that manner. Not the asking for help but the not talking. Overall, super CUTE. I loved him and was so happy to help him and have him steal my hat. If I’d sat a bit longer with the piece I might have found a better way to convey what happened.
I find myself irked by this. I know the woman means well… but seriously? ALL kids are different, some may enjoy circle time but then react “out of the norm” to zoos. I guess whether your kid is “weird” or not depends on your own perception of the “norm”. Some of the comments peed me off .. what the hell is “a typical kid”? Look lady, your kid is just a kid…simple as that… like adults they are all amazingly different … unlike adults they dont feel societys pressure to conform. So some walk calmly while yours dances… mine walks nicely… then will start barking like a dog… whats the difference between yours and mine….loads and none! Love it, live it …dont judge whether my kids is normal or average, dont assume what others are thinking about your kid and never apologise for who they are!
it’s fine if you’re irked but know that I’m certainly not judging any child for being more average than mine.
There’s “normal weird” and then there’s the rest of us.
Barking like a dog is completely normal behaviour in a child. My daughter used to pee on car tires – that’s weird. 😉
On a more serious note, would you consider a pre-teen having a full-on panic attack due to sensory overload within the range of “normal” behaviour? Because I’ve been that kid, and I wouldn’t.
“You spend a lot of time tamping down that parental anxiety when your kid is freaking out and it seems like all the other kids are sitting nicely and cooperating. You explain over and over that your kid just doesn’t like circle time or story time or most organized activities. I’ve learned over time to respect my son and the way he functions, and there are a lot of activities we simply cannot do because he can’t handle them. I’ve learned that the reason it seems like all the other kids can cope is that the parents with the weird kids are staying home. I’ve felt completely and utterly alone as seemingly everyone else went around with their perfectly normal, average kid.”
^^^^ THAT .. I dont know where to start with that. … I mean Jaysuz.. yor kid neither likes nor enjoys circle time… you feel embarrased and have to explain … GO …find something your kid enjoys, work together. Theres a lot of activities I cant/dont do with my kid because she doesnt seem to enjoy them. Who is staying home? How do you know? Maybe they are out doing things their kid enjoys rather tham taking them to shit they hate and apologising for who they are! Oh …. and a “perfectly normal average kid???????” On what scale are you measuring that then? Wheres the science? My kid loves circle time, follows Ballet class… but drops to her stomach and slides through the supermarket like a snail, my friends kid (3) can sit quietly and tell you the exact names of a whole bookfull of dinosours… take her to ballet and she rocks around the joint in her own fashion and at the top of her voice… weird? Nope.. Kid? yup! … Dont you dare call my or any kid normal OR average!
I’m not sure when it became an insult to say that any child falls more into the range of normal than other children. As parents are we invested in our children being non-average? The world NEEDS average people. I would celebrate my average kid too. My son has taught me this – to be happy with where any child is. I suspect that some of his issues come from being a little too smart in life, but I honestly make no effort to gauge his intelligence, and I think his world would be easier if he were more average. I’m not going pretend that there’s something wrong with falling right in the middle of the curve.
BTW, I don’t take my boy to shit he doesn’t enjoy. That’s kind of the point. I have changed my world and my expectations to fit HIM. In a society that values adults over children it is generally accepted to expect our kids fit into our world and our own expectations. My wife and I have done the opposite – we have fit ourselves into our kids worlds, and it’s not always easy or comfortable. It requires sacrifice. You end up feeling alone sometimes, which is why I wrote this.
I didnt say it was an insult. I question what scale you are judging yours or others kids to be normal or average. I dont know you or your children, I can only go by what you have made public above….and none of the mentioned behaviour warrents any kind of abnormality bar your own embarrasment or assumed judgement of how other parents may feel towards their child.
This >>”I’m a parent and I love kids, so if some random kid on the playground wants to grab my hand and silently suggest that he’d like a boost into the swing, I’ll oblige. So I did, and moments later his mom rushed up, embarrassed, apologizing, clearly flustered that her apparently mute child had accosted a total stranger in his search for a turn on the swing, that I was having to deal with her weird kid. I smiled at her and assured her that it was no problem for me to help her son. But I wanted to tell her something else. I wanted to tell her that I understood more than she realized”
I find this so assumptive… you figure she was flustered because you had to deal with her weird kid, Did she say this to you? Did she call her kid weird?… from what you write NO! Its your judgement… you called him weird, not her. That I find rather patronising not to mention rather insulting. Maybe she was just flustered because a stranger was around her kid!
Isnt fitting into your kids world and doing what appeals to them, what interests them, what nutures and furthers their intellect and emotional well being called being a parent? There are things my wife and I feel would benefit our daughter, we try it out, she doesnt feel the same way…we find an alternative.
It seems some people out there have gathered ..I dont know…solace? or acceptance? from your piece. Maybe its just me… maybe I just dont need it. I just remain …irked!
Sascha, I totally get what you’re saying. There’s a difference between kids acting a certain way because they aren’t interested or they don’t like an activity and a child who physically/mentally can’t handle it and may often exhibit “undesirable” social behavior.
As a teacher, I see it happen all the time- people are incredibly judgmental of the parenting that happens with children that fall out of the range of typically developing. It’s not always super obvious to others that the child has some developmental issue, and people seriously judge the parents of these children, having no idea of who this child is and what the family is dealing with. It sure would be nice if everyone could mind their own business and be happy with who they are and who their own children are, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, which seems to leave parents feeling like they need to apologize for behaviors that are extremely typical for their child (rocking, screaming, hitting, wearing a weighted vest, etc), but not typical for the vast majority of the children they know.
It’s hard. While every child is unique and special, I totally feel you, Sascha, on how isolating it can be when the judgement of your kid by others makes it seem like it would be easier to just stay at home.
Also, Lulu, be glad that your kids “weird” behavior is limited to the supermarket. I know a hell of a lot of people who would be exceedingly grateful if that was their child’s oddest and most challenging behavior.
Rock on “weirdos”.
“Dont you dare call my or any kid normal OR average!”
Whoa. I’m surprised at the anger this inspired… it just sounded to me like a cute story and somewhat unique point of view from a mother with a kid who has some social difficulties (specifically “sensory defensiveness”). Some kids like certain things and some kids don’t, and that’s fine, just go with it & enjoy it was the message I took from this.
Being so offended–even in the whimsically-cloaked euphamism “irked”–by the suggestion that there are kids that are more normal than others seems to me a curious hangup. Every kid is weird in some way, and in other situations that same kid may be the norm. Normal doesn’t mean boring or dull, and it doesn’t mean not special. Jeesh.
Thank you. You put so eloquently what I was feeling but couldn’t find the words!
You assume my anger!
Dont call my kid normal or average… on the flip side dont call my kid weird, dont offer me a secret smile in your assumption that I am embarrased of my kid…Im not! Your assumptions quite “uneuphimistically” irk me.
Just dont judge…whats so hard to understand about that?
Like I said…Some people took things from this piece that I didnt… I and a few others so it seems saw it a different way. Wouldnt do to be all the same now would it :0)
Exactly what I needed to read today.
I was a weird kid. My parents never paid much attention to my weirdness. And I guess I grew up into a sensible adult. If that is any consolation for all you parents out there. ^^
Thank you for writing this. As a parent of a weird kid/medically fragile kid /special needs kid- coming to terms with my own feelings as a parent took me a long time. It’s incredibly isolating. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to turn down invitations or leave group activities early. You feel bad for your kid and embarrassed because we’re all cued to want to fit in. Which makes us feel guilty. It sucks.
We just started going to a playgroup for other special needs and developmentally delayed toddlers. It’s been awesome. No guilt or judgement from the other parents. If my kid won’t finger paint because she can’t handle the texture. Who cares. Their is 2 other kids dancing in the corner for her to join. A room full of weird kids and parents looking to connect without the guilt has been life changing for mom and kids.