From Twice Exceptional

The Inferno: Twice Exceptional Raising Twice Exceptional

The Inferno

The Dream

Six months ago, I dreamt I lived in a vast black basement and never slept.

My singular duty was to stoke an enormous and intensely hot furnace. I heaved mound after mound of dusty coal into the roaring inferno.  My back ached. My mouth burned with thirst. Yet, I shoveled on.

At intervals, I rested.  The sudden stillness dizzied me, as if I were falling asleep. Heat and light jarred me back to alertness.

I pondered the purpose of the inferno. Does it fuel a city? Power a massive factory? Or is this subterranean monster an entity of its own?

I waved away the thought. Work resumed in minutes. I needed a few moments of mindless relief.

I shoveled.  Unequivocally ravenous and implacable, the fire vaporized  fuel as quickly as I could provide it. I increased my pace. The walls of coal began creeping closer. I shoveled frantically to avoid being pushed into the flames.

I could not maintain this furious pace.

Should I make peace with my doom or continue to  shovel?

I woke up.

 

The First Interpretation

The struggle of fueling a voracious furnace resembles raising a twice exceptional child.

Forever vigilant, I juggle interventions for anxious, tourettic behavior. Today I dab balm on eyelids chapped from compulsive rubbing. Tomorrow I hide tomatoes and bananas under dishtowels.  Our home is a stage constantly reset to remove temptations. Everything is just so, to reduce spills, plumber bills and frustration.

Tyoma’s intelligence generates another kind of perpetual effort. Keeping pace with profound giftedness demands more than hiding scissors or stowing away hand soap.  Intellectual thirst requires mental fleetness, abundant creativity and cognitive endurance. Without stimulation, a gifted brain agonizes. Boredom triggers unedurable tension and restlessness.

I strive to support our son. Should my attentiveness wane, I fear I will be engulfed. Meltdowns,  intense emotions, and wild behavior disorient me. I fear I will fail him.

I secured these thoughts in a notebook. My legacy to Tyoma will not be an interminable online ode on how hard it is to raise him.

The Truth

A week ago,  I revisited my notebook. As I re-read my words, I realized the inferno dream was less about raising a twice exceptional child and more about my own struggle with twice exceptionality.

Long before Tyoma entered our world, I shoveled. I fed the fires of schools, university degrees, jobs and interpersonal relationships. I put forth enormous effort to maintain impossible standards.  At times, the furnace snuffled me in; blackening me into deep depressive spells.

No six year old holds me captive in a basement. I’ve always been here. And now I have company.

My dear, sweet, bright little boy grips a shovel in his hand. His furnace roars. I hope to teach him the finest shoveling techniques.  I hope to teach him to enjoy the radiance of his gifts without being gobbled up by his differences. Above all, I hope to teach him how to brush away the ashes and begin anew.

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Birthday Mom

Entertaining Others With #Autistic Gifts

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Whisper the word “Shakespeare” in my dad’s ear. He transforms.  Bristly white eyebrows perk up. His 79 year-old eyes widen, brighten, and sparkle.  He speaks:

She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day…

Words pour out like water from a moon-sized pitcher.  You’d be adrift in a small sea if you did not interrupt him. Dad can quote poetry endlessly.

My father’s skill as an orator was overlooked until he enlisted in the Army. Stationed in Alaska during the Korean War, his encyclopedic recall of risqué limericks entertained lonely and bored fellow soldiers.

Dad’s Uncle Doc inspired his love for theater. Doc had a similarly profound memory. He made his living astounding vaudeville audiences with his wit and mnemonic feats.

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A few weeks ago, Tyoma showed an interest in knock-knock jokes.  I remembered Dad and Uncle Doc. “Perhaps T can use his fantastic memory to dazzle his friends with jokes!”  I thought.  I imagined a circle of laughing six-year olds, holding their little bellies, relishing T’s talent. In a burst of enthusiasm, I carted home the local library’s collection of jokes and riddles.

It was not until Tyoma read jokes aloud to me that  I recalled my childhood romance with jokes.

In the third grade, I became the butt of jokes and teasing for being a “spazz.” After a particularly hard week at school, I came home to find Mom had raided our favorite used book store. Stacks of paperback joke books covered my bed. Cheap, faded, and stained, their sharp grassy smell permeated my room. I breathed in the scent and felt unburdened.

I dove into the books joyfully. Convulsive and tearful fits of laughter squeezed my sides all weekend. I have never been so painfully amused!  My favorite book, a psychedelic purple and orange elephant joke book, delighted me–absurdity at its finest.  I read and re-read the books.

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It never occurred to me to share my jokes with my classmates.

Actually, the joke books were part of Mom’s secret plan. My school yard harassment was started by a popular boy who had taken a dislike to me.  His teasing infected the other students. After a weekend immersion in jokes, Mom made a suggestion.  I could take control of the teasing by telling my own jokes.  My jokes would amuse others without hurting anyone’s feelings.

I skipped to school fifteen minutes early. I told joke after joke.  Despite getting a few laughs, I had the sinking sensation that something was not right.  Only now, I realize my presentation was more Ringling Brothers than Robin Williams—my twitchy anxiety made me weird, not funny.

The bully boy listened in at the edge of the small group. He took note of my jokes. Later in the day, he retold the best ones in front of a larger, more appreciative audience. He told a joke and kids laughed. I told a joke and kids scuffed their feet.

I was annoyed that this boorish lout got accolades for my jokes. But, he never picked on me again and the other kids left me in peace. Mission accomplished. My love for joke books persisted, undaunted. I did learn, however, to keep my fascinations more private. Who wants to fuel an irritating peer’s glory or fret over unappreciative classmates?

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Contemplating my experiences, I decided to let T’s love for jokes follow their own course. He might run a grade school vaudeville show or he might laugh for hours in his room. Either way, I’m taking a step back to let him find his place. Jokes are about feeling good.

Hello Kitty!

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"I like cats because they are meow-sounded"

My five year old son has chosen his Halloween costume. He wants to be Hello Kitty.

This should be interesting.

Why does he want to be Hello Kitty? Because he is in love with this little girl:


The singing character is “Kitty,” Tyoma’s imaginary friend.

Tyoma wants to be Hello Kitty “because Kitty likes Hello Kitty and I want her to like my costume.”

In case it is confusing, the “Kitty” in the video is not Hello Kitty, although they are both Japanese.

Of course I’ve already bought him a Hello Kitty Hat:

Tomorrow I am off to find a white shirt and matching bottoms. Pictures to follow.

BTW, this is an awesome article  about one mom’s choice to let her son wear a “girl’s” costume.