This morning my 13-year old got up at 6:00 AM to go on a training run with his mom. Pretty soon he’ll run in his first half marathon. After he got home, he showered and got ready for school, cooking himself breakfast along the way like he normally does. Then, like just about every 8th grader in the world, he grabbed his backpack and begrudgingly went to school.
This is our 13-year old.
He’s full of stories like this. There was the time he saved $800 of his own money to buy and build his own gaming PC without any help. Or the time he jumped off the swings so high and landed so badly that he broke both arms. Or the time he caught a blue fin tuna half his weight.
This is our 13-year old.
Here’s the plot twist. Very few people outside of our immediate family ever see the amazing things our middle schooler does. And that’s the way he likes it.
It’s called privacy.
He hates school. While he’s learning to play along and give teachers what they want, this is a young man who learns just fine on his own and really dislikes the way school works… lots of repetition and very little actual thinking.
He’s not into church. (Notice I didn’t say “hate.” Our kids used to hate church, but things have gotten better.) He does fine in “big church” but doesn’t like the perception that things are being dumbed down for him. And, quite honestly, he’s just not that interested in hanging out with people his age.
He’s not super social in a traditional way. He’s got friends. He hangs out. He talks openly and freely and all of that. It’s just that most of that isn’t built around the provided social norms of school or church. And you know what? That’s fine!
Perfectly Abnormal Isn’t Dangerous
One of the things we’ve learned is that having a teenager who is comfortable with his introversion is a threat to purveyors of normalcy.
The whole thing cracks me up because the same people who publicly celebrate the uniqueness of teenagers are often the ones most threatened by our sons uniquenesses. Just because he’s not displaying these qualities to them (or for their papers or their Instagram photos) they conclude that he must be dangerous or self-harming or rude or disobedient or as one school administrator put it “a square peg in a round hole“.
The rules seem simple: Dance for us little monkey or we’ll label you.
Perfectly Abnormal is Perfect in God’s Eyes
I share all of this not to toot our sons horn, trust me he doesn’t want that.
Instead, I share this as a reminder to those who work with teenagers that as much as I value your work in our kids lives, you only see a very small slice of the whole picture.
Your work is important but it’s small compared to my work as his parent.
My job is not to get my kid to perform for you. My job, as a parent, is to help my child flourish to become all that God has for them.
My role is big picture. Your role fits into the big picture but is part of a much larger pie.
If that means he blows off your big idea or doesn’t behave the way you want him to? Please don’t ask me to make my kid make you feel better about yourself. That’s misunderstanding our relationship.
Instead of trying to get everyone to fit into your view of normalcy, I’d encourage you to make room for perfectly abnormal kids.