Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

A Very Special Child

Every child is special. Right? I mean, that’s what we’ve been told our entire lives. Every child is not only special but equally special. It makes sense, really. How can you possibly label one child special and another one somehow less so, or not.Regardless of the details, the individual circumstances in which you might find any given child, each child really ought to be accorded the label “special” at the outset, and then each child should be cherished and loved as such.

I really do think that’s a pretty decent baseline position for every other human to adopt when thinking about any child. Especially parents. Each child is special. A gift. Each one deserves to be cherished and loved as such. In reality that’s often pretty much all that’s necessary once you’ve helped your child attain the status of “housebroken” and have imparted in them the basic ingredients to survival in society. You know, the Golden Rule and some version of the Ten Commandments is probably the barest minimum set of social survival skills you’d be remiss if you didn’t pass them on.

In reality once you’ve done this, as long as you continue to provide food, clothing, shelter, and the “cherish and love” thing, kids out in the wild usually turn out pretty darned well without much more in the way of prepping. At least in the developed West with public schools to pick up the pace around age 5. Sure, encouragement to aim for success, a shoulder for the occasional cry, and the odd re-direction if they drift off course might be helpful. But kids have been managing the growing up jungle gym in the face of all manner of benign neglect for well over a century, the overwhelming majority of them turning out really well.

Is that it? Am I just gonna say kick ’em outside if the sun’s out, unplug their screens occasionally, and don’t let them dine on nothing but Cheetos and Cheez Whiz? Of course not. What all of this is leading up to is that, while every child deserves to be loved and cherished, and almost every child who is will turn out pretty close to as well as they possibly can turn out, there really does exist something that can only be described as a “very special child”. Let’s abbreviate that VSC so I don’t have to type it all the way through. An VSC deserves just as much in the cherish and love category as every other child, but the stark and harsh reality is that more is required from pretty much everyone for that child to be OK, let alone blossom.

You don’t really need me to tell you what might constitute a VSC. In your mind’s eye right now you have at least a couple of kids in view. There are the obvious ones, the kids who are born with genetic defects or who have some kind of medical challenge that they just can’t handle without help. Some kids have hidden problems that you can’t see from the outside. Think Diabetes. Nothing you can see on the outside tips you off to this challenge. Or abuse. You can’t see the internal scars that affect the young victim of abuse, and yet they are there just like any other medical problem.

On the other side of the spectrum there are children who are gifted. Exceptional in a way that is simply not normal. Super smart kids. Not “gonna be valedictorian” smart but “ready for Yale at 13” smart. A musical prodigy whose talent is so blaring and obvious that they debut at Carnegie Hall or the Grand Ol’ Opry before puberty. Michaela Schiffrin’s coach in Vermont told her parents that she was destined for greatness at 10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcinder) was recruited as an 8th grader. Kids like this are not just special, they are a VSC.

So what? Love ’em, cherish ’em, and just throw them outside, right? Nope. Whether or not you knowingly signed up for the VSC cruise, in almost all cases you willingly signed up for the kid cruise in general. Once on board that ship there is always a chance that you will become the parent, grandparent, or guardian of a VSC. Good, bad, or indifferent, the arrival of a VSC brings with it a level of commitment that is simply greater than that of parents who have a regular, ol’ special kid. It may be good and fun or really terrible, but it’s always much, much harder.

Always harder.

Again, what’s the point? Two, I think. First, as the parent (or other responsible person) of a VSC there is unavoidable sacrifice. Maybe only one parent can work. A smaller house. Less sleep. Someone has to take their VSC to the doctor or shuffle the chess prodigy to that tournament in Chicago. There’s blocking and tackling in parenting of every child. Paying the bills, making the time. With a VSC there is much, much more of everything. No matter which side of the spectrum they fall on, raising a VSC means sacrifice that most of the rest of the world just never needs to make.

The second thing is for the rest of us. Those of us doing our best to raise special kids. We should realize that no matter how hard it is for us to feel like we are doing the right thing by our kids, to make the sacrifices that we all make so that our kids have their best chance to have a happy life, there are parents out there who have it much harder than we do. They could sure use our help and support, but really all they need is for us to be kind in the face of the challenges they face. Not only the Mom who has to stop everything in the grocery store to calm her child who has autism, but yes, even the frazzled Dad trying to figure out how to manage the up-do that came undone just before the floor exercise at the Junior Olympics. Our role in the lives of those raising a VSC is simply to offer kindness.

Every child is special. Some, for reasons that may be good or not so good, are more than that. There really is such a thing as a Very Special Child. If in some way he or she is yours you have an outsized burden that you cannot walk away from, that you must shoulder every day. The rest of us owe you and your child kindness in both thought and deed.


Leave a Reply