After school today, I had to stop to talk to Luke’s teacher about some accommodations we need to get in place for him for his schoolwork while we begin his tutoring for dyslexia. On the way home after my conversation, the boys and I were talking about how much they dislike having people know that they’re struggling. They don’t want to feel different than their classmates and they don’t want their classmates looking at them differently. Luke hadn’t even wanted me to talk to his teacher, but I convinced him that she needed to understand his difficulties so she could help him. Even at that, he was insistent that we find a way to help him in which no one in his class need ever find out about his dyslexia. Since I just last night wrote about the boys and how grateful I am that their struggles are occurring earlier in their lives rather than later, I thought I would take the opportunity to reinforce my thoughts on the subject by talking to them about it.
“You need to step back and look at the bigger picture on this, Luke. You’re having some difficulties on the front end, but these things you’re going through will just make you stronger in the long run.”
“I just don’t want any of my classmates to know I’m different,” he replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weird,” he said.
“They already think you’re weird,” I added.
“I don’t want this to make me unpopular,” Luke continued, unabated in his concern for his reputation as class clown.
Unpopular? Seriously? The kid is 9 years old. Is he already planning on being Homecoming King?
“Seriously, Luke?” Joe asked. “Everyone loves you because you’re so cute and funny. I don’t think they’ll stop liking you because you can’t read. I told my classmates about my ADHD and they don’t even get what it is. I don’t think your classmates will care.”
“I don’t want them to know,” Luke insisted.
“Luke, sweetie, you’re looking at this all wrong,” I tried again. “All these struggles you’re having now are going to help you later in life. You’re going to be able to face anything because you’ve had to be so brave and dedicated through all this. Dyslexia is not a problem. It’s a gift.”
“It’s not a gift,” he whined. “It’s a curse.”
It got quiet while I tried to figure out how to convince Luke that his embarrassment now at not being able to read as well as the other kids is actually a good thing for him. Then, out of nowhere, Joe piped up.
“Luke…it’s like the X-Men. They have powers and abilities that other people don’t have. They want to keep them a secret because they feel like freaks. Some of them think their powers are a curse. But, they’re not. Their powers make them special. They’re different and it’s not bad. They can use their special abilities to do all kinds of things.”
“Exactly,” I replied. “What Joe said.”
Okay. Okay. So, my boys aren’t exactly the X-Men. I mean, they’re not telepathic, they can’t shoot people with a high-powered optic lasers, and they’re not exactly conjuring up storms to smash their enemies. On the flip side, though, they are special in their own right. They may wish now that they were just “normal” like other people. But, I hold out hope that someday they’ll see that the challenges of being different have been a gift and not a curse. Maybe someday they’ll be proud of their own accomplishments and maybe they’ll even think they’re cool, even if they don’t have retractable, razor-sharp claws like Wolverine.