The kids were all playing nicely on the grassy area of the State Park. <cue carefree happy summertime music. Release romping puppy. > But oh, wait. Who’s that eager young man leading a small pack of wild-eyed young children across the rocks that traverse the rapidly moving stream?
Ah. . .that would be my son, the Sizzler.
Elsewhere, children were happily engaged in a friendly game of tag at the group family camp out <cue soundtrack of squealing, playful-but-still-safe children making laughing sounds>. But oh, wait. Whose feet are those dangling from the bottom of the chimney indicating that someone had left the playful group and was now stuck in that giant unused (we hope) outdoor Barbeque?
Ah. . .that would be another Sizzler. (It took about an hour to get him out. No kidding. We were minutes away from calling the fire department.)
And what did all the other parents have to say. . .
. . .about our outgoing, curious, fearless Sizzlers in these situations?
How delightfully different?
How lucky and blessed are the parents of these special and interesting kids?
Not even close.
Some things are better not repeated.
Our sizzlers are often out in front, doing things, trying things. . .things that other children would never even dream of. Their minds receive the slightest bit of input which instantly causes the rise of a great idea, which now itches feverishly in their brain requiring that they act upon it.
And off they go to try things without thinking of the dangers or risks involved, to themselves or others. It can cause an unintended alienation from other kids and their parents. I recently got a note from a mom about finding the right social circle for her Sizzling child. Before I try to answer, let’s take a look at her letter.
How do you find a homeschool group that accommodates sizzlers?
Granted, last year was my first attempt at homeschooling and my kids are young (5, 3, & 1), but I was incredibly stressed to attend the group get-togethers and outings with my 3 year old acting his normal self (curious, quiet when wandering, loud, playful, breaking through a fiber glass table at a nursing home, etc.). I understand many say this is typical behavior of a 3 year old, but I have siblings who behaved the same and were told they were bad. I’ve been told that I just need to do a better job keeping this one in line (even my youngest “behaves” better). This kid’s got a good heart, but he’s just like Curious George…gets himself into all kinds of predicaments out of curiosity and wanting to play with everything. I don’t want to punish him, and I do think I provide the structure that he needs (just enough, but freedom to be himself), but I have such a difficult time around others who just expect him to behave and be a good little boy.
Can I expect to find a group? I could really use the support and encouragement, but I feel ostracized because my son is just so full of energy. What can I do? I LOVE this child of mine, I love his life and his energy and know that God can use this little boy to do some amazing things as a man someday. I don’t wish to punish him for who he is all of the time, but I feel like I am expected to ‘make him behave’ a certain way. (Again, he’s not malicious or hurtful towards others, and his siblings are just very calm in comparison to my wild child).
Are ya feelin’ the love?
Yeah, me neither. Big sigh.
I ache for this kid, and his mom. I’ve sooooo been there. So let’s see what we can come up with.
Let Go of the Notion of Understanding Masses
The typical person will probably never fully appreciate our kids. We need to let go of the wish that they will one day get it. I know. I know. It’s a dream we all had. You say just the right thing and BAM. They’ve got it. <cue the heavens-parting music and flood bright light of understanding over the face of aforementioned unappreciative parent.> But, truth is, it’s not likely to happen. And I don’t hold this against them. In fact, I suspect that if I weren’t blessed with two high-energy, into-everything, thinks-a-mile-a-minute Sizzlers. . .I’d be the one not appreciating the Sizzlers around me. I’d be the one looking at the parenting practices of the mom and dad and thinking less than kind thoughts. I’d be the one who “didn’t get it.” I’m pretty sure of it.
The first thing we have to do is to admit some things.
- Our kids ARE more talkative, almost like incessant tape recorders played at double speed.
- Our kids ARE more rambunctious than other children.
- Our kids ARE harder to keep up with. You can look away for just a moment, and they can disappear down a trail because a flitting object in the trees caught their eye.
- Our kids ARE more likely to break things and there are admitted inherent dangers in that.
So in truth, I understand why some parents take two steps backwards when they see us coming. We are a bit much to handle. I’m rather loud, fast-talking, and intense myself. I’ve long believed that I make people tired. So imagine how they feel when they see me AND my Sizzlers heading their way. <feel the semi-panicked need for a Zen getaway vehicle.>
So I understand their retreat.
But I also understand that they completely miss the joy that is my child. I no longer require their understanding in order for me to go ahead and delight in this amazing human being. I wish they got it, but I no longer need them to. And in the end, the loss is most assuredly theirs.
That said, there are some things we should do for our own sakes and for the sakes of our much loved children.
1. Create Smaller, More Manageable Groups
When the local homeschool group plans an outing at the zoo or science museum, and you know that there will be at least 60 kids in the group. . .just say “no”. Our sizzlers will amp up just by being part of a big crowd. Their level of excitability will notch up significantly simply by the presence of so many other laughing, moving, chattering people. Don’t put your child in that situation and then expect them to keep a calm and level head about themselves. It’s asking too much.
Instead, create your own mini-group. Find one other family, maybe two, and go on your own. Choose a calmer group of folks. Try to keep the volume and pace slower, more thoughtful. Instead of flitting from the monkeys to the lions to the bears, pause and ask questions that take the experience a layer deeper. This will not only help your Sizzler to keep the flit-factor to a manageable level, it will make for a more educational experience.
2. Create Your OWN Support Group
Any time you find another family with a Sizzler, make a connection. Have them over to play. Share useful Sizzle-friendly resources. Let them know they are not alone! They need you as much as you need them. These are people who already “get” your child. No educating needs to be done. There aren’t as many of us out there, but we need each other more.( That’s precisely why Sizzle Bop got its start in the first place.)
I remember having one particular Sizzler in a homeschool co-op class. So many other teachers struggled with this preteen, but I adored him and his unique mind. I approached his mother one day and said I wanted to chat with her about her son. Her face instantly dropped. I could see the “What now?” look on her face. I instantly corrected her perception and told her how much I enjoyed the mind of her child. I explained that his unique ways of thinking were going to take him places that other kids wouldn’t be able to go.
She began to cry.
She had heard so much to the contrary that the slightest support was overwhelming.
Reach out to others with kids like ours. Not only will you build a base of those who walk a similar path, you may help heal a wounded heart.
3. Don’t Apologize for a Tighter or Looser Leash
Please forgive the leash analogy. It’s got some unneeded baggage. But don’t miss the point. There are times when I keep my sizzler on a VERY tight leash. While other parents would give a mild correction to an action, I seem to bark like a Storm Trooper, to instantly stop the action. A mom once commented on this too me. It seemed over the top for her. I took her concern very seriously, and then realized why she was wrong. First of all, a milder correction often doesn’t even make it onto my child’s radar screen. He simply won’t hear it unless it rises far above the noise level around him. Second of all, I know that there is a level of excitability that once reached, my son will gleefully propel himself headlong into whatever snippet of an idea that has popped into his head, with no regard whatsoever for the safety of himself OR this other mother’s child. I must keep him reined in a bit more tightly. Because I know the ramifications of crossing that line that this other mom can’t even see.
On the other hand. . .there are days when I will allow a much longer leash. By that I mean that I sometimes will let them behave in the silliest and most annoying of fashions. I will permit them to bounce like a bunny down the empty aisle of a grocery store even though the woman at the end of the aisle looks with a disapproving glance. I will let them sing and do wild hand motions to a favorite song as we walk along a wooded trail, even though it turns a few heads. I will join them in a wild dance on the driveway even though the dog walking neighbor produce that “There they go again” look. Why? Because A) it burns of excess energy and B) there’s no harm in it. I know. We’ll never win the “most normal American family” award. But, I’m good with that. And with the slightest bit of consideration, I don’t think I want that award anyway.
4. Have More Than ONE Social Group
This one came from my husband, a Sizzler in his own right. It’s very important to have several separate and distinct social circles for your Sizzler. There will come a time (trust me) when they do something that causes them personal embarrassment in their group. And if they have only ONE group, it is now devastating. But if they are active in 3 or 4 different groups (even if only mildly active), then when they have a falling out with one, they have others they can naturally gravitate toward. When the smoke has cleared, if you want, you can reestablish in the original group. But with several in the mix, no single loss has to be catastrophic.
We are privileged to have these kids in our lives. We are enriched by their delightful (and yes, sometimes quirky) ways that are missed in many families. We are certainly challenged by their unique needs, but the pay-off is a richness of color and experience that I wouldn’t trade. If your child is having a hard time fitting in, maybe it’s time to accept and even embrace some of that. You’re not raising a Johnny B. Typical. You’re raising a Thomas Edison (another well-known Sizzler)– he may never fit in with typical folk, but he’ll find his own colleagues, he’ll find his own way, and he may one day light the world.