Bragging rights, “those conversations” and loving your ordinary kid

I’m reading this book right now called Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid!: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Kids By Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian.

I bought this book in a particularly low, snarky, and impulsive moment…because—please understand—I really don’t want people to shut up about their “perfect” kids…

…I just wish that sometimes I had something to contribute to “those” conversations.

You know the ones: Where parents boast about their kids, post pictures of straight A report cards, and brag how their kid just made the travel soccer team.

Those conversations.

I am genuinely happy for these people, really and truly.

{Okay, I am going to be really honest here: This one time, I was not happy. I was super annoyed.

I listened to this woman monologue for 20 minutes about how great her son was, how smart he was, how he went to a special private school, was a star athlete, graduated with honors, went to an awesome college, and is now the head of a billion-dollar company.

She also shared her low opinion of public schools, special needs kids, and asked my viewpoint on inclusive classrooms vs. isolated classrooms for special needs kids. She felt that special needs kids distracted from the learning of others because they took too much of the teacher’s attention.

This is after I told her my son was Autistic and had learning disabilities.

I nodded, smiled, blinked, took deep calming breaths and tried my damnest to be polite.}
So, while I am genuinely happy for the success of others, I have a hard time participating in “those conversations” because my kids are remarkably average.

And they struggle too.

Right now, my son is having a really hard time in school (is there an award for “Number of IEP meetings attended in one semester”? I could enter that contest!)

So many times, when I tell people that I have 10-year-old twin boys, they come back with, “Oh, do they play sports?”

And I’m like, “Uh, no. They don’t.” And then I have an inner debate with myself about over-sharing. Sometimes I unload on the unsuspecting stranger who was just trying to make polite conversation, telling her all about the sports we tried and how it was SO STRESSFUL because….Sensory Processing Disorder! Autism! ADHD! Meltdowns! It’s really hard! NO WE DON’T DO SPORTS! WE’D LIKE TO TRY AGAIN SOMETIME BUT IT’S REALLY STRESSFUL!”

Sometimes the unsuspecting stranger backs away slowly.
Sometimes I just say “No, they don’t” and scramble for a new topic (“They really like Pokemon and Legos!”)

Those conversations.

I’m like the nerd looking in on the cool kids club, at least, that’s how I feel sometimes.

It’s probably why I bought that book (which I have enjoyed and appreciated for its familiarity and raw honesty).

I get down on myself and throw a pity party about my life and I hate feeling like that because my kids are really awesome even if our life isn’t exactly Normal.

Recently I prayed this prayer: “God, help me to see my sons’ gifts. Help me to see their character, their hearts, and who they are inside. Help me to encourage them and speak life and truth into who they are, not who I wish they were.”

So, here’s a little story, a little glimpse I received into my son’s heart:

We’ve been getting ALL THE TOY CATALOGUES in the mail recently and my boys are going nuts over ALL THE TOYS they want for Christmas.

Last night, we told them to make a list of the toys they would like and then come share it with us. They really enjoyed this task, plus they were unknowingly practicing their handwriting (win-win!).

When it was Benji’s turn to share, we were a little surprised at his list. He has very particular interests (Hallmark of Autism) and the toys he listed did not seem to match his “favorites.”

He turned the page of the glossy magazine and pointed to a picture—“That one! I really want to get that!”

“Really?” I asked. “Tell me about why you want that toy.”

“I want it because Silas and Eli will really like to play with it. And I want this game,” he flipped a few pages over and pointed. “Because all the boys will enjoy it.”

My husband and I exchanged glances, smiling slightly, our eyes mirroring the pride and tenderness we both felt in that moment because his whole list contained toys or games for his brothers.

“But what does Benji want?” My husband asked, putting his arms around our skinny, long-legged boy.

“I want these toys so that all the brothers can play together. Look, Dad! Here’s a PJ Masks tent! Eli will really like that!”

We never found out what he wanted for Christmas because what he really and truly wanted were gifts to make his brothers happy.

Oh, our hearts…

“We love you, buddy. You’re a really cool kid. You are so generous and thoughtful. You thought about what your brothers wanted and that’s just awesome.”

Right about now is where I could say something like, “This is what really matters! NOT grades! NOT sports! CHARACTER!”

And it does, it really does. I’m so proud of his character.

But that’s not to say that good grades, sports, talents, gifts, or whatever else doesn’t matter. Those things are worth being proud about—they are like a parenting “pay out” in this gig of raising kids that often seems to just take and take.

But I’m learning to take what I have received, to examine it closely and see the jewel hidden under all that “ordinary” rock.

My kids are remarkable; I just forget it sometimes, especially in the middle of “those conversations.”

I don’t want anyone to shut up about their perfect kid (though read the book if that title resonates with you!): Brag away, parents!

But here is what I do need to silence in my heart: Comparison, jealousy, and discontentment.

They only crowd of the love and this truth: My kids are amazing, not because of what they do, but because of who they are.


  1. E

    I cried reading this. I needed this so much. I’m dreading Thanksgiving when long distance family members test our kids on how smart they are. My girls are dyslexic and we are working on it, but they are no where near where they “should” be in reading for their age. I also sometimes get jealous seeing other kids that are farther along. I loved your prayer. Thanks for sharing this!

    • I am so glad this touched your heart. I hope and pray that Thanksgiving goes well this year. Your girls are so special for so many reasons! <3

  2. Sarah

    I’m welling up (and that doesn’t often happen when I read) about how generous and loving Benji is towards his brothers – what a lovely boy

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