I walk into a classroom. A different school than where I normally substitute. Hesitant. Unsure of this new age range. This age my son seems barreling toward all too quickly.

I never worried about him growing up in this relatively small population of our city. Nor have I ever questioned his place in our schools until recently. Yet for months now I am unsure of what he will face, if he is in the best place for these later years of his education.  For this child of mine who seems to break every mold anyone tries to fit him in.

I never wanted him to grow up innocent. At least not in a naive way as I did. Don’t misunderstand. I had a good childhood, but there are aspects I look back on and wonder if it was too sheltered.

But I also never expected for childhood innocence to be so quickly pushed aside for my own child.

When he spills stories of classmates speaking of gang association at only eleven. When bullies threaten him for any number of reasons. When he refuses to wear glasses because they call him a nerd.

He calls himself an artist and they laugh. His natural defense to argue and boast. Learning to walk away a hard lesson.

It is easy for me to tell him of how they are jealous of his abilities. Easy for me having experienced it and now with twenty years of perspective. That they are afraid to be unique.

So much harder for him to know that. To feel that in his spirit. In his soul.

He is a creative. Such artistic ability from an early age. And just like many creatives he feels things deeply. Knowing doesn’t necessarily become real until he feels it. And feeling it does not always appear until we wear the lenses of age and distance.

Oh how much like me he is in this way.

So I’ve found many deep breaths are needed. Groping our way along this liminal age. No longer a child. Not quite a teen. The time where pressure builds to fit in with the crowd. To be thought of as cool.

Yet I see underneath his wanting to remain true to who he is and his abilities. So we reach to learn how to find this balance and inspire the confidence. Confidence he needs to fight the fear of being different. To stand up to those who use hurtful words to compensate for their own pain. Entreating God to give him the gift of sight to see through his own hurt to theirs. To understand them.

Yes we will survive. At times I do pray God would write instructions on the wall. Preferably in a language I understand. How to inspire him and teach him. How to educate him best.

And I pray for just a bit more time. A bit more innocence. Trying to push away this inevitable just a mite longer.

What challenges are you facing as a parent right now?

Linking up with Peter Pollock for the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Innocence.

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