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  • Carla Hakim O'Brien

On Parenting "The Different" It takes guts.


There is a literal explosion today of kids who operate differently. Stuck in the world of "good or bad," "right or wrong" we as parents get thrown down the rabbit hole of endless Psychiatry and Therapies to try to help them be "better." They don't fit well in social groups and struggle greatly at school. We are led to medicate and therapize them back into the norm, and childhoods are lost to living a life of endless fixing.


Instead of being a great detective, with a keen eye towards our kids' strengths and possible "best paths" we are led to believe that a childhood of struggle and work to be different than who they are, is the safest choice towards being a good parent and helping them turn out successfully. Guess what. Kids are not muffins, they don't turn out.


Yet at the same time, as a society, we honor those eccentric geniuses who have long histories, often obsessively focused on what is driving them to understand, create, or master. Mozart, Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Dr Seuss, all had obsessions deemed "undesireable" by society that were the very catalyst to their greatness.


Studies show, that eccentric tendencies, or different operating systems (for lack of a better descriptive term) when coupled with "right" environments conducive to nurturing who they are, become genius world changers. When in "wrong' environments where they are suppressed, punished, and forced to fit into societies' standards, they perish.


As a wellness and success practitioner and a swim coach, and a parent myself of "the different" I intimately understand the inner dilemma we all face. Allowing an eccentric child to have a big say in their path and even daily functional decisions, can feel like we are too mushy. We fear we are raising a sissy, who will not be able to deal with adversity because we allow them to be who they are versus forcing them into the societal norm. And yet when we work to follow the accepted path and dedicate endless time and resources to therapies, educational tutoring, etc, life is often a constant battle and there are no guarantees it will "work."


Parenting, is a huge responsibility. It's the most important job we have in our lifetimes, and there is no manual for the "different" kids. We get it wrong and we've ruined a life. We get it right and we've done a good job. I see stressed parents on both sides of the fence.


Research is catching up, and we are seeing that kids that fit the normal path, do go on to normal, steady careers. But, they aren't world changers. The world changers the millionaires, (studies show their average GPA's are 2.9,) people who shake things, up, who are different and see possibilities that others don't. The differentiating factor, is the environment in which the eccentric was raised.


It takes guts to follow the parenting road less travelled. We are the parents less afraid to trust that who our kids are, and how they operate, is a purposeful thing, not a broken thing. Our job is to be supportive, and to be great detectives and opportunity creators to find environments that are conducive to their learning, as well as encouraging them to be themselves. We know they have a unique path and it's our job to nurture that.


Guts in this case refers to courage + trust of intuition or instincts (which is often felt in the gut area.) We have the gumption to go against the norm as a parent, and since there is no manual, we use our intincts to support our quirky kids, their way. After all, no one knows them better than their parents. The doctors, or the therapists, and the schools all have a paradigm skewed towards "the norm."


We actually know better, and can take in their expertise to inform us, but then make our own courageous best choices WITH our child as the barometer. Thriving - good fit. Struggling - not such a good fit. It gets much simpler when you decide to trust yourself and your child.


Traits considered to be wrong with us, or our eccentricity or quirkiness, are actually our greatness. And when we have parents willing to understand that, to trust us, life goes way better. We don't lose our childhood to therapy. We aren't forced to fit into an academic box that will never support us. We are nurtured to become who we are, and to make our difference our way.