“Do you ever feel like you’re raising a special needs child?,” a friend asked me recently.
“Yes, but I feel bad saying it,” I admitted.
“You shouldn’t,” she assured me. “My husband and I say all that the time that we don’t know how you do it, we don’t know what we would do if we had a son like C.J.”
My son is gender nonconforming and I consider him to be a specials needs child. He is a child and he has special needs. Very special. Like other special needs children, he needs an advocate, a protector, someone who will take a little extra time to explain things to him and someone to educate others on his behalf. That person is me. And, often times it’s exhausting. Some days I’m tired of living and breathing gender issues and it feels like there is no escape.
I travel before him, where and when I can, to alert people to his arrival and his uniqueness. I clear the way, often wondering if that’s what’s best. Am I encouraging people to have preconceived notions about him before they meet him? Am I doing him an injustice and disservice by not letting people get to know him and love him as him, gender nonconformity aside. Can his gender nonconformity ever be an aside?
Special needs kids are often defined by what they cannot do. My son cannot blend in. He cannot wear boring socks. He cannot resist having his nails painted. He cannot stop dancing when music comes on. He cannot resist the urge to strike a pose for the camera. He cannot play pedestrian games like cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians. He cannot shun a good skirt with lots of “twirl” to it. He cannot choose to play with a group of boys over a group of girls. He cannot keep his hands off of beautiful hair. He cannot say no to a great craft. He cannot turn the other cheek to things that sparkle, glow, shine or have a good use of color. He cannot conform to traditional gender roles. No way, no how.
I love him for all of his “cannots.” But not everybody thinks that they are as special as I do.
I was in the grocery store the other day and C.J. was wearing Tinkerbell boots, pink sunglasses and beaded accessories of his design. He had a pink plastic microphone and was singing Aqua’s “I’m a Barbie Girl” like he wrote it, sang it and copyrighted it. The produce section truly is his stage. Not everybody wants to be his audience. I get comments. I get looks. I give comments. I give looks. People insinuate and sometimes say flat-out that my son is gender nonconforming because I’ve made him that way. Damn me for encouraging him; him being a special needs child is my fault.
If my son had Down Syndrome or Autism or a peanut allergy, they wouldn’t blame me for his special needs. They wouldn’t find fault in me and say that I caused it.
I’m thankful that my child is healthy and happy. When your child has special needs all sorts of fears and worries seep in, grab hold and tease your reason. When your child has special needs, so do you.