You know, when I started this parenting gig, I didn’t really know a lot – hell, what parent does? There’s been highs and lows – the highs are really really high, the lows . . . let’s just say that the Mariana Trench has a lot going for it.
But somewhere along the line, I kind of got the impression that if my kids were hitting the milestones at roughly the right time, “all was well”. (The right time, of course was statistically figured out with a bell curve. They’re really neat and rather mathematically beautiful. I actually like them, as an idea).
Somewhere, in the depths of over eight years of overwhelm, the bit of my brain that used to sigh with relief when my kids hit those milestones exactly on time got rewritten. Now, when a nurse or doctor assures me that something is perfectly normal, just what they expected of child brain/body/whatever development, I go into full-fledged panic mode. Even though the maths part of my brain keeps reassuring me that my kids have to fall inside the middle of the bell curve for some things, another, perhaps more realistic part of my brain will go “you keep believing that if you like, buster, but I’ll be over here locking myself in the panic room.”
You see, 2e (Twice Exceptional), is a bit like a chocolate Easter egg that someone smashed and then tried to glue back together. From a distance, the shiny wrapper looks just like all the others. It’s only when you strip off the outer layer and have a really good look can you see the weird-mosaic mixed-up mess that’s underneath. Pulling it apart to find out what’s really going on? That’s an adventure.
The first hint of our 2e journey happened when C was 13 months old. He walked right on schedule. It was only as the years went by that we found out about his Dyspraxia, and Cerebral Palsy. But it wasn’t until little J walked 5 months earlier than C that we realised that his ‘normal’ on-schedule walking was probably one of those 2e eggs.
The second 2e egg happened when C taught himself how to write at 2 years old. He would practice incessantly – writing letters over and over and over. It was idiosyncratic and very cute. I figured he’d have plenty of time to learn how to write in the more standard way. I really wish, some days, that I could go back to my younger self and give her a decent pamphlet on Dyspraxia and talk her through why physical skills won’t necessarily easily transfer between similar activities. It was like the walking all over again, as something that appeared just fine slowly fell apart as the difficulty increased and the egg disintegrated. It took years of hard work on all our parts, particularly C’s (and a lot of help) to remake that particular egg.
The third 2e egg was watching my son do a game designed to help him with social interaction. I watched him whiz through the social situations with, if not perfect accuracy, at least certainly within the realm of that middle-of-the-bell curve. But when it came to recognising emotional expressions? Imagine that every person you met was wearing a mask with a picture of their face on it. You have to figure out what they’re feeling, how their reacting without any of those facial clues you probably aren’t even consciously aware you are noticing. That’s my son.
And yet . . . he’s somehow figured out his own pretty amazing ways to interpret people. It’s one of the 2e eggs that you want to sit back and admire, because the shear effort and beauty in it is far, far more amazing than you’d think from having a look at the shiny foil on the outside.
But our latest 2e egg has me tripping over and doing a face-plant in the mud.
Me and my hubbie are pretty badly vision-impaired. My hubbie doesn’t remember a time without glasses, and I’m from the land of the fuzzy. And we take vision testing very seriously. We knew that our daughter had a small problem. But we were assured by her optometrist that it was probably something she would grow out of, but just in case they would keep monitoring and retesting . . .
Have you ever stood in front of one of those stretchy circus-mirrors? The ones that make you thin and tall, or short and wide? Now coat those mirrors in something like Vaseline to give it a nice, soft blur. That’s my daughter’s vision at close range. A square would be something akin to a fuzzy, wonky rectangle.
And yet, she’s an artist. Her visual-spatial acuity is pretty darn amazing – she can paint the most amazing pictures, and I’ve been assured by at least two specialists that her drawing abilities are multiple years above her age. She draws a square . . . as a square, a circle as a circle, and ditto pretty much every shape, including letters and numbers, she can think of drawing. We were so sure her vision was probably OK that we put her through cognitive testing – the type where they sit you in a room and get you to look at small stuff at short range. . . sigh.
I have no idea how she does it. It’s the 2e egg I was not expecting.
Twice Exceptional is like that. It keeps stuffing up those nice charts and bell-curves. I’m sure that somewhere there is a 2e sprite that keeps lobbing these curve balls in our direction and cackling madly. Maybe even doing a jig in a wacky rainbow-coloured suit while they’re at it.
One day, I’ll be able to look back and remember all the wonderful, amazing stuff that our life brings, with the weird fading into just a memory. But until then, I’m probably going to keep being suspicious of anything that looks too close to normal . . . because those 2e eggs are far more scary, wonderful, terrifying, amazing and wild than their shiny, normal-looking surface makes them appear and for once, I’d really like to see them coming.