When I backed out of my driveway to go to Science Night at our local science supply store, E was clutching her giant plush Lyme Disease microbe and P was enthusiastically singing "Why Does The Sun Shine" by They Might Be Giants. They were in a very science-y mood, and I figured it would be a good night. And, for the most part, it was...E had a bit of a tantrum as we left because P had more opportunities to participate than she did, but overall, it was a great time. We were there for an hour and a half watching experiments, making things, and meandering around the store. It was really nice.
When we were driving there I was actually concerned. Indulging the kids' interests is basically the same as encouraging them to be weird. Well, actually, that's kind of harsh...but I can't figure out a way to integrate their interests with behavior that's considered socially acceptable by kids their chronological age. I wondered if I should encourage more typical interests instead. But when I pulled into the parking lot and found another family exiting their minivan with kids who had decided to cosplay for Science Night, I figured that if I'm making a mistake at least I'm not alone.
Sometimes I watch my sister or my friends with their kids, and I marvel at how the kids do what they're supposed to do. It's not automatic - it's with a lot of hard work on their parents' part - but they send their kids to school and the kids learn ABC's, have playdates, earn Little League trophies, and meet milestones. Others have difficulties, and things come more slowly or develop differently. There are IEPs and medical procedures, and milestones are met long after they were expected. I feel like I'm on a different path with my kids, flailing away in the tall grass trying to cut a passage for us, wondering why this all seems so hard.
Last night I had a vivid dream where I was walking out of a school with someone I used to work with. We were catching up and she asked me how the kids were, and I blurted out everything...all of my fears and worries, about how we were "counseled out" of another year at their elementary school, my fear that they wouldn't be accepted at their new schools either. She gently stopped me and said, "Don't worry. Just do this." Then she wrote me out a step-by-step process to ensure that the kids would be okay. Before I could read it, though, she gently took me by the shoulder and guided me to a low wall where we sat and she hugged me. In real life I'm not really into getting hugged by acquaintances, but apparently my dream self is much more amenable to affection because I just leaned on her and let myself be comforted. I woke up frustrated that I hadn't been able to read the paper, as if it would have actually been useful.
I suppose I just need to stick with the friends I've made who are out in the tall grass too...maybe not on my same path, but still flailing away, trying to find some direction for their kids who don't fit in.