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My Unique Son: Embracing My Son for Who He (Really) Is

A few months ago, I read a book that stirred up so much in me. The author was an elementary school teacher who saw the special gift in each child. While these gifts may not be valued or welcome in the classroom, they can be appreciated as an asset in a different environment.

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The book made me think of my son—strong and independent, full of creative, unconventional ideas, bursting with passion and energy. His personality traits were not highly sought-after qualities in the kindergarten classroom. He wasn’t like the other kids.

Raising My Son: I Love My Son For Who He Is

His teacher was always so frustrated with him. He didn’t pay attention to her and couldn’t sit quietly in his chair. Consequently, he spent a lot of time in the principal’s office, or in a special room for disruptive kids. All of this made me feel horrified, embarrassed, and, quite honestly, marinated in shame. I felt self-conscious as a single mom and now I felt judged because of my son’s misbehavior.

But I was wrong. I should have defended my son. I should have recognized his uniqueness as an asset and opened the teacher’s eyes to his gifts. And if that didn’t work, I should have sought a teacher who would celebrate him. There were so many rocky years. In toddlerhood, the daycare mom would have a tough day with him; the preschool teachers would call me at work (and I felt forced to lower my voice from my co-workers and be guarded in my responses, so no one knew I had an out-of-control kid).

Loving Him Just the Way He Is

I wish that I had spent more time focused on him and showering him with love. As he was learning to walk, I was wildly distracted with court appearances and lawyer fees for my divorce. I had one eye on my boys but my mind was miles away. As they got older, I was always trying to figure out how to pay the bills, how to rake a yard full of leaves with a baby and a preschooler, and how to get some occasional time with other adults.

Today, I reflect back and wish I had had the wisdom to set much of that aside and just look at my son and promise him that it would all work out. I wish that I would have been able to articulate enough to let my baby boy know he is good enough just the way he is, and nobody should be able to try and change him. I wish I would have told his young self that he can rock the world and he doesn’t have to prove anything to me because he doesn’t have to earn my love—it’s there, all there for him and it doesn’t change according to his behavior. While he had to earn my trust and my respect, he has never had to earn my love.

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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