I am the parent of a weird kid, and I know I’m not alone

Guest post by Sacha Davis
swingit!

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.

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

  1. As a former weird kid/weird current adult, thank you for writing this piece. My parents spent years stumped by my tendencies to tell outlandish and blatantly untrue stories for no apparent reason and spent so much time apologizing. In the end, instead of repressing my behavior and harping on my to BE NORMAL, DAMN IT, they taught me to channel the imagination I wanted to share with everyone into a creative process instead. Now I’m a writer, and with their encouragement, can spaz to my heart’s content. Your love for your kids is obvious; thank you for not forcing them into things they don’t want, and thank you for letting weird kids/weird parents/weird parents-to-be (hi!) know that there’s a wonderful weird community out there that understands.

  2. What is “weird” anyway?

    There are of course some behaviour that adults do that is outside the norm (and the norm kan vary from country to country) and there are things people do that are blown out CRAZY and they need medical help, but what is “weird”.

    When I think about weird I think about me and the other kids that never fit in at childrens school (don’t know the school system in US… but in Norway you start college(?) at 16)
    so when we started “college” at 16, we found a group of peers who dressed different, funny make up, piercing, talked about books that was just “sooo weird” and was all “OMG, we are so WEIRD. All you other guys, don’t talk to us, we are cool `cause we’re WEIRD and you are not”.

    I have grown out of that fase. I still beat my own drum, but I’m not weird, I’m just Me.
    It seems like a lot of parents think “I was weird and now my child is weird, that means we are cool”.

    To everyone: Don’t label yourself or wear “weird” like some teenage badge of honor, just be You.

  3. I think this is important for the parents of supposedly not-weird kids to read too. I think a lot of parents behave badly because they are afraid their child is going to embarrass them in public by having less than perfect manners or being just a tiny bit weird or loud or whatever. Sometimes they just radiate irritation and impatience, and sometimes they get into a shouting match (or worse) just because of that fear.

  4. Dear Sacha,
    Thank you for this article, I was the weird kid and now have 3, each a different level of being from the ‘spectrum of Autisim’, to damaged by menigitis, to wild and amazing and unstoppable and ‘challenging’ to stuck people. Each is so well loved for being who they are, but will never have a ‘normal job’. I was the weird kid who read too much off peoples faces and told them things that popped into my head, things that were unspoken but true, till I was silenced. What is it that this world expects such a miracle of life to be tamed to dullness that we cannot be unique and experience it in our special brand of sensory input?

  5. Perfect timing! I have a 2 1/2 yr old daughter who lives in the realm of “weird kid”. She has SPD and a related language delay. I struggle between apologizing for her and feeling defensive to wanting to shout to the world “f**k yeah, my daughter is quirky and awesome!” In the sea of “normal” kids, my daughter rocks it and does her own thing with a style all her own. As adults we should take more care to celebrate the oddities. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. I like this article. I’ve got a boy who likes playing with girl toys in down south, football playing Texas. Just yesterday my 3 year old son was asking me if I will hide his Mrs. Potts (from beauty and the beast) mini tea set key ring because he didn’t want the boys on the playground to make fun of him, but yet he didn’t want to be without his tea set toy either. He also plays with action figures and nerf guns, and all those other “boy” toys. I am so tempted to move away to a more liberal place where people don’t act like I’m crazy because my son has zero interest in Little League and enjoys watching Doc McStuffins. I don’t think he’s weird, just on the gender neutral side. Unfortunately, though, that’s “weird” here. 🙁

  7. I was a weird kid and I have a weird kid. He introduces himself by making car noises. (That reminded me of your son hissing.) His vocabulary is off the charts, but he doesn’t like to talk to other people, especially kids. He’s more vocal with adults. I love how weird and tender and sensitive he is and I see echoes of myself in him. And I love him so much.

  8. As the mom of a weird kid, I mostly really appreciated this article. But I found it rather ironic that you chose to write this: “The playground is the great equalizer. All kids love to run and jump and play. All kids love to swing…”

    Um, no they don’t. My kid doesn’t like playgrounds, doesn’t like to run and jump and explore the equipment. He just doesn’t. Never has.

    If the point of this article is to make parents of weird kids feel better, this article is going to fail for anyone whose kids are weird in ways that are different from the ways in which *your* kid is weird.

    I think the real problem is when we assume that *all* kids are supposed to sit quietly for circle time, or enjoy the playground…or anything really. They’re all different. And being “weird” is really about just not conforming to societal expectations about what *all* kids are supposed to do or like.

  9. The problem for me is not so much the weird things my weird kid does: I’m used to it.

    The problem is when other adults (at the park, in the neighbourhood) start labelling him as the difficult kid, complaining about him all the time, even for things that are to be expected in any child.

    So then you find yourself in the awful position of either trying to get your kid to be more “normal”, or having to tell people to bug off, and keep their preposterous expectations to themselves.

    I’ve had a really bad day, and am so tired of dealing with people who should be adults, and are instead just big whiny overgrown babies, and bullies.

  10. My six year old son is a weird kid. I always worried about him before he started school. Would he make friends? Would he get picked on? Thankfully he made a few buddies and he has chilled out (just a little, not enough to change his awesomeness). I’ve always worried about taking him to birthday parties or letting him go to a friend’s house. He can be hard to deal with if you don’t know him and his quirks. But he’s special. He’s special like all the other weird kids are special. Our weird kids can grow up to be musicians and scientists. Weird kids are inventors and astronauts and aren’t afraid to explore the unknown. New things in the world don’t come from boring people. New things come from weird kids who grow up to be weird adults that think outside of the box.

  11. Almost cried as I read this. I don’t know how many sleepless nights I’ve spent worrying about my son fitting in to school and social norms. I have nightmares about bullying. I want him to be himself. I’ve stopped trying to explain his behavior because I’ve realized that he’s a happy boy with a huge imagination that will never follow the crowd. Doesn’t stop the worrying at night but it’s made my days shine.

  12. I started reading this article and then it hit me that I’ve read this before! It must have been several years ago when I was also googling “weird kid”. Obviously, not much has changed! It’s about 95 degrees outside and my son is wearing his three piece suit. It’s either the suit and tie or just underpants. There is no in between. My son is 8 years old and in some ways perfectly normal! He loves fidget spinners and Minecraft. He goes swimming (not with the tie) and eats ice cream. But there is the other stuff. He spends hours tinkering in his “workshop”. He’s freakin’ amazing with computers….the guys at the recycling place save parts for him to come collect. He takes them home and makes them work. He ignores people who are speaking to him directly. Today a older lady at the grocery store commented on how nicely he was helping me (dressed to the nines and pushing the cart), but he seems afraid to look at anyone. I told her that he’s just shy. Honestly, he’s just weird. I wouldn’t change a hair on his head. He’s got some wonderful gifts, but socialization is always one of them. I hope this leads to the next Bill Gates and not the next guy in his basement with a tin foil hat and a bag of Cheetos.

  13. Isn’t abnormality normal? I thought we were supposed to be helping kids not grouping them out and claiming who is weird and who isn’t. Weird is defined to me as the abnormality in a society that may not have an explanation. To me I find everyone, even people with syndromes and whatnot, normal. A little friendliness doesn’t hurt. Trust me I’ve known how it felt to be considered ‘weird’ or ‘special’ and it pushes a weight on your chest pressuring you to follow the “normal” in a society. That’s why we can’t have peace. For the kids who are themselves but are finding people to be thinking your weird stay ‘weird’ because eventually people at one point or another will depend on you.

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