Susan's Blog

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Gift

The name Nathaniel comes from the Hebrew name ‘Nethan’el‘ meaning “God has given” [1][2] (from the Hebrew words nathan “has given” + el “God”).– Wikepedia

Tomorrow, November 15, is Nat’s 21st birthday.  During the first years of Nat’s life, I was the only one who knew that there was something — .  But even I didn’t know that.  Plagued by self-doubt and low self-esteem, I denigrated my instinct; I looked away from what I saw.  It was too hard.  I even had to convince Ned, the love of my life, the smartest person I know. I had been alone in my life, but those two years — 1989-1991 — were the loneliest I ever faced.  During the day, it was the baby and me.  Nat and Mommy.  Trying to do the baby-and-mother thing, but actually swimming through a lot of murky, viscous, water.

But I was doing the baby-and-mother thing.  I was.  Going on walks with the stroller.  Reading baby books.  Filling sippy cups.  Teaching first words.  Enough love to fuel a hydrogen bomb.

It just didn’t feel like I was doing it right because I had no self-confidence.  I also had no model in my mind of atypical motherhood.

This is an old story.  But every time something happens, it becomes new again.  I’m thinking about his imminent important birthday.  I’m thinking about how I went to Disneyworld with Nat just last week.  I’m thinking about how he’s traveled to Colorado three times, and only once was that with us.  I’m thinking about how he moved out of his home, away from his family, and simply adjusted.  I’m thinking about the lights.

The lights being left on, and how that used to drive Nat to tantrums.  How he still hates outside lights left on, but now he tells us, once or twice, paces a bit, sucks his thumb, and then forgets about it.

So I’m thinking about before he was diagnosed and how I told my dad that he could read — or maybe he was simply memorizing. But still.  I remember feeling this hot pride, that grabbed me by the throat so that I could barely speak.  But I told Dad that day how finally I could feel hopeful, that despite how things so rarely seemed to go the way they were supposed to with Nat, finally he had something that was really really amazing.  “You’re going to find he’s gifted,” Dad said with smiling certainty.  Nat was gifted.  He was odd because he was gifted!  I grabbed onto it to keep from drowning. See?  I was going to have it all, after all!

I waited for this giftedness, this brilliance, to show itself some more.  I waited for the warmth of knowing that I was right, and that he was okay.  It did not come.  I felt myself letting go, more and more.  Each new thing I had to do was like a sell-out:  going to preschool felt like the end of his innocent childhood.  Now he was a “special needs” kid.  Not only not gifted, but actually a kid with problems.

There were occasional glimmers, times when I would revisit the whole idea that maybe this was all a bad dream, that Nat was really just fine, just misunderstood.  Those were the times I wanted to take him out of school, and close him in from the rest of the world.  I wanted to go back to the cocoon of his babyhood, but his babyhood wasn’t really ever like that.  Still, there were these flashes of the boy he really was. Small things like learning to do chores.  Cooking.  Swimming.

I began to see that although nothing about this boy was easy or obvious, some good things were very very possible.

Bar mitzvah at thirteen, first friend at fifteen.  Sleepaway camp in Aspen.  Working at Papa Gino’s. Moving out.

Attending a talk with me at a conference.

That feeling, that tightness in my throat is with me a lot these days.  Dad was right.  I was right.  Nat is gifted.  Not a genius, nor a savant.  Not “normal.”  Not cured.  Not an angel or a saint.  But in living his life to his best potential, being good and smart and brave, he has given me faith that good things can happen.  That’s the gift.


A gifted child that has gifted parents. Happy birthday Nat.

— added by Ed P. on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 8:11 am

Beautiful post. Happy Birthday Nat!!

— added by Suzette on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

“Some children talk late”… oh all the times I was told that one…. smartest thing I ever did was ignore it and ask questions… I too was alone, our pre-internet days….

Hope Nat has a great birthday.

— added by farmwifetwo on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 9:30 am

Happy Birthday, Nat!

Sam has the gift of joy. His younger brother has the gift of art. (And if you want to call the making of scrambled eggs whenever he wants them to where we have to keep the fridge locked a gift, he has the gift of making scrambled eggs.) His younger sister is actually doing very well in her regular classroom, *except* for demonstrating reading comprehension.

And, almost everyone that works with each of them tells me that that one is a joy to work with. And *that* counts for a lot. *That* is a gift, one I am in awe of every time I think about it.

— added by Julia on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Beautiful reflection on the ache and adjustment throughout the journey, and the profound joy we can find when we see our children reach their fullest potential. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt and resonating words.

— added by J. Lorraine Martin on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 6:48 am

So beautiful, Susan. Wishing the happiest of birthdays to Nat and to you. Thank you for sharing the gift of your words, your love, your son with us.

— added by Niksmom on Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

…”grabbing on” to keep from drowning…
Thank you!

— added by Timmy's Mom on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:36 am