Let It Go Part 1: “Does He Have Brain Problems?”

I recently learned that the driving time between home and church is the length of the song Let It Go.

And, yes, I learned it the hard way.
In the past few months, I’ve heard that damn song at least (at the least) once a day. Usually three times. On the way to school. On the way home. And during bath time. Every. Day. Actually any time he’s in the car with me, he requests that song. I guess I’m the sucker for giving into his requests…

I thought we had passed the Frozen craze. But no. It got to us as well.
This is my life now. Somebody help.

But perhaps, the constant blaring of Elsa singing “Let it go” has served as a prophetic voice from God to me. I mean if God once spoked through an ass… why not send a message through a slightly-overly-sexualized-for-its-targeted-audience ice princess?

Because I have a hard time of letting go when it comes to control. Usually, when it comes to controlling how I want God to manifest in my life.

I’m learning just how terrifying it is to pray to God with open hands saying, “Here. You take control now” without adding “by doing ______.”

I also recently learned that if I’m not careful, I’m going to force N (our foster son that we are in the process of adopting) into a life in a bubble where no one and nothing can hurt him. I want to control everything and everyone around him.

That became very apparent one day at his school.
Once a week, my wife and I volunteer to serve as group leaders in the two kindergarten classes (the wife and I usually take turns volunteering).
The teachers divide the kids from both classes into groups of 5-7 and they’re sent off to the learning groups. The way the rotations work, you’re usually with your own kids group most of the time.

The last time I was there, I knew that it was going to be a difficult day for me.
For those that don’t know, N is on the autism spectrum. While he is in general ed, he has a special ed teacher with him — at least for the first two months of school — at all times.

The kids came in (N didn’t see me yet) and they were all sitting down waiting to see what their groups were going to be and what learning group they were going to. There was an empty space in front of this girl, where N chose to sit. Except he sat so close to the girl, he was on top of her foot. Of course, she didn’t like that. And she kept trying to push him off of her, getting more aggressive with each push. He thought it was a game. The more she pushed, the bigger his smile got. Eventually she got her foot free and moved a bit back so that she can reclaim her personal space.

The kids got excused to go their groups and in comes my group, including N.
After they found their seats, one of the girls looked at me, pointed to N (not knowing I was N’s dad) and said, “I don’t want to sit next to him” then proceeded to scoot her chair away from him leaving enough space for two more chairs to fit in between her and N.

I didn’t know what to do. I was more upset than N because N was his constant happy go lucky self. He had no idea what was going on. The SPED teacher intervened and told the girl to move back to the original spot, next to N.

We moved on with the lesson with N participating as much as he could — thrilled that I was at school with him.

When it came to the gluing things portion of the lesson, a different girl asked me, “Whose dad are you?”
And I pointed to N and said, “His!”

She looked at me and said, “Does he have brain problems?”

Now. I’ve always had a fast mouth — a mouth that has gotten me into trouble all throughout my life. I’ve joked that instead of a filter from my brain to mouth, God gave me fast legs to compensate so that I can outrun those who chase me in anger.
The only thing that’s different between 34 year old me and 17 year old me is that — thanks be to God — I now have a semi-functioning filter. It doesn’t always work — but it worked this time.
Because my first reaction was to say something mean (and funny, by the way) in retort to her question. But for crying out loud, she’s 5. 6 at the most.

The SPED teacher and I exchanged a quick look and I said, “I wouldn’t call it a brain problem. He’s just learning and some people learn faster than others, that’s all.”

“Oh,” she replied. “So… brain problems.”

“She’s only 5. She’s only 5. She’s only 5. She’s only 5” is what kept going through my mind. I mean, it’s not like she was being mean intentionally. She was asking a genuine question like kids do. I remember my parents telling me that I asked out loud, pointing to a woman, “Why is she fat?” (Thankfully it was in Korean, so no one outside of my parents understood).

I saw myself wrestling with one of two options:
1) make a big deal out of this by talking to the teachers and even the parents of the kids in his class
2) put more stress and pressure on N to fit into society a tad bit better.

I was a bit surprised that I assumed there were only two options to wrestle with: take out my frustrations on the school or take it out on N.
At the same time, it seemed like those were the only two options to wrestle with.

I was at a park playing basketball with N and was overhearing a conversation between mom and son. Son was emptying out his lunch box with all this trash in it. Mom got upset when she found out that the son’s friends threw all their trash into his lunch box. “Real friends don’t do that” she began. Then started teaching him that he needed to stand up for himself. Today it’s trash. Tomorrow it’s going to be bigger. It was a great point. Except she was really angry. At him. And the kid just listened staring at his lunch box not making eye contact. (Boy, have I been there…)

And a part of me found frustration with N. There was this desire, this need to really work him, work on him, and work with him so that he can be “normal” (whatever that is.)
Then there was desire to protect him from the world around him.

All unrealistic. I don’t want to be that helicopter parent that cries murder for every. insignificant. slight towards my boy. I don’t want to be that guy. That guy is insufferable.

I also don’t want to be the tiger parent that rules with an iron fist 24/7.

There needs to be balance, right? You can’t fight every battle, but you’ll need to fight the important ones. You can’t be the tiger parent 24/7, but you do need structure and discipline.

I sat at one of my favorite spots in Santa Barbara letting the winds and the sounds of waves wash away my frustration.
After a few moments of silence, I put my earphones on to listen to some songs while taking a quick stroll.
The first song that comes up on random play?
Yea. Let it go.
I hate that song.

But turns out, I had a third option.
In the words of Elsa (say it with me now): Let it go. (Did I mention, I hate this song?)

I can’t control the world around N and the people he’ll come in contact with. I can’t control whose going to be loving, kind, and patient with him nor can I control whose going to be an ass towards him.

There’s no point of trying to control all of that — even if I find the desire and need to do so.

What I can do is remind him (and remind him often) of how great he is; how smart he is; how beautiful he is; how awesome he is; how deeply loved he is. Because he is all of that, and more.
He shows up to school everyday, happy and beaming. His teacher asks, “Does he ever have a bad day?” And I respond, honestly, “actually, no. He’s always so happy.” If that’s not normal, I don’t want him to be normal. Normal is overrated.

The other day after school, the girl that scooted her chair away from N because she didn’t want to sit next to him, came running towards me and gave my legs a big hug– which was really weird and (let’s be honest) unwanted.
I said, “what in the world are you doing?” while trying to kick her off my legs to which all the adults around me laughed. Except, I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was literally shaking her off and asking what in the world are you doing?!? in a tone of voice that communicated You were mean to my kid a few days ago, why are you here?

She just shrugged, smiled, and walked back to her teacher.

It just goes to show: I’ll never understand girls. Of any age.

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