Arms Like Mine

Amy Challenger essays

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“Mama, can I come home? Please? Can you come get me? He was mean again. He told me he’s glad I’m leaving this school.” The voice of my 9-year-old sounded like it was inside of my ear, echoing through my head, pushing out of my tear-ducts.

I wanted to sprint, jump into the car, race to the school, and throw my arms around his warm, knobby shoulders. I wanted to whisper into his soft pink skin that this world is mean and hard, too often. People hurt, even when they aren’t trying to. There is nowhere to hide— nowhere but inside of my arms.

Instead I said, “You can do it sweetie. You can! You only have two more weeks of school.” I felt like the wheels had come off the cart a month ago, and now I was dragging him through the rocky, muddy muck of a school that doesn’t fit him anymore. A place where he feels lost.

My son has only attended school full time for a year and three months now. For the rest of his elementary years, professionals have come to our home to teach him. When he was little, he was kicked out of his first preschool, on the second day, while I was in the hospital giving birth to my third child. They said, “he hasn’t done anything exactly wrong. He just doesn’t fit.” After that, we found a preschool that allowed him to come for a couple of hours a few times a week. Next there was a PreK program that allowed him to come every day for two hours.

The truth is that my son does not fit out there, in your world, with most other children. There are few places for him to go where he can truly flourish. He suffers from a syndrome I’ll call “being different.” I suffer too. He had open-heart surgery and an arrhythmia, for which he had to take highly toxic drugs as an infant. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, but everyone agrees that this label doesn’t describe him well. He doesn’t even fit well into the enormous DSM book you see at the psychologist’s office. He’s moody, oppositional, anxious, hyper, a brainiac, obsessive, impulsive, extremely sensitive, and highly competitive.

Today his most challenging trait lies in his ability to read people deeply. Too deeply. He feels (not just sees) the inside of minds, and what he feels often turns his mouth downward. The weight of people presses on him like an iceberg, freezing him from moving forward. He cannot form the link from one person to himself. He cannot make the connection, or break it, so his mind spins, wondering why, why, why? Why doesn’t he like me? Why is he mad? Why is he sad? Why is she strict? Why is she angry? Why doesn’t the world love people more?

My son desperately wants to connect.

But he cannot.

On these last weeks of school, I’m praying my boy will ride that creaky wagon to the finish. I want to lift him from it, high into the air, basking in the glow of his beautiful soul. I want to smile with him at the big sky, knowing he could be there, in the world with all of you, even if just for one year.

But no matter what the outcome, I’ll be waiting, my arms opened, ready to take him back with eternal gratitude. I want him for a summer. I want him for a lifetime. I only wish there were more arms like mine open and waiting for my boy.


About the Author

Amy Challenger

Amy Aves Challenger is a writer, painter and mom of three children, one with special needs. When she isn't mothering, she is blogging on and or working on her first novel about a family's struggles and triumphs raising a child with special needs.

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June 2015 – Kindness
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