Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Only Gay Eskimo in my Tribe

My heart is a little broken. I knew this day would come, I just didn't think it would get here so suddenly, and I'm a bit confused on how to deal with it. Finding one's own identity is tough. Just ask my eight year old boy. He's a brilliant, funny, obsessive weird little dude, and I say that with the most love a mother can muster. Despite the fact that most adults absolutely love him, most kids do not get him. It never bothered him until now, when the awareness of who we or he in this case, are in relation to others. It has finally sunk in. He is not like the others.

Every parent wants their kid to shine, to be a bright star in their own world. Who doesn't want their child to be loved, have a butt load of friends, be asked to all the birthday parties and called on to play on someones team? I do. Keller should have all of these things, and yet, does not. It's certainly not for lack of trying. He isn't mean, a disgusting booger eater, or a jerk. Well, on occasion he acts like a jerk. He marches to his own drum and lots of kids don't hear it.

First of all, he looks different. His hair is longish, and usually not brushed and stringy because he spends so much time outside chasing after imaginary Dutch soldiers. Keller's favorite outfit consists of a pair of blue khaki pants that are too short with worn out knees, his old dress shoes a.k.a. "hobo shoes", a grey army shirt with tiny holes around the neck from chewing on it, and a dress jacket that makes him feel like James Bond. And, a belt. He ALWAYS has a belt on, usually pulled too tight. He likes the outfit cause he can stuff toy guns, lucky charms and his M6 identity card in all the pockets. He is happy when he wears this outfit, so I let it go. He isn't allowed to wear it to school or church or out in public, really. But when we're home and he's just going to save the world, I let him have at it.

Keller acts different, which is the biggest reason why kids don't always relate. He obsesses about many things including Egypt, mummies, weapons, wars, littering and whatever television show his sister is into. Hie is very sensitive and his feelings are easily hurt when he is slighted. I know how hurt he is because it usually ends with him whispering in my ear about a not-so-nice situation. Bedtime means plenty of snuggling and serious talks about school, troubling encounters with classmates or a specific scene in a Batman movie that I've seen a bazillion times and don't really care to hear about again, but which totally gets him going. It's much.

If you didn't know him, you would think he is nothing but a know-it-all. Sometimes he acts like an annoying smarty pants, but mostly he's just a walking encyclopedia who is dying to share new things he has learned with anyone who will listen. I often think he just needs to get it out so he can make room in his brain to fill up with more knowledge. Some kids in his school slot him under the annoying know-it-all category. Others think he is a bore or too smart for his own good. Some are in awe of his brain, but they usually don't say much. I think he has a tough go at school.

I know he does. There are a group of kids, boys and girls, who have been making fun of him for the past few weeks, telling him he is worthless and that no one wants to be his friend. He is, of course, priceless. But the truth is, he doesn't have too many friends at school. He has one buddy in a higher grade with whom he hangs with. But their friendship is somewhat dictated by the fact that his parents and grandparents are friends of ours.

Last week as I was tucking Keller in bed, he told me about the kids telling him he was worthless. I of course wanted to march to school and flick them in the side of their heads, but refrained. What I did tell him was that tons of people think he is cool. And then, it came out out of his mouth, like a sad truth we never want to face. "No I'm not; I'm a geek," he answered. As much as it broke my heart, I knew it was sorta true. He is weirdly book smart. He dresses strange.

"Not everyone will get you. Not everyone will be your kind of people," I answered. "And, you cannot worry about them. Just know that many, many people love you that will grow as you get older." It's the best I could come up with on the fly and it is the truth. Thankfully, he sort of accepted that. It's going to be a little lonely for him but he'll manage. He'll learn from it and something great will come out of it.

For example - there's a hilarious song from a defunct Toronto band named Corky and the Juice Pigs, that sums up this feeling. "The Only Gay Eskimo in my Tribe" is one of the saddest, funniest songs I've ever heard. Every time this band played this tune, it would send the audience into hysterics. I loved it too, but not just because it was so weird, but because it was sung with such conviction, I had to believe there was some true feelings behind it. I do not think my son is gay and he is definitely not an Eskimo. He is often lonely and misunderstood. But one day he will laugh with the world ,and honor loneliness and being different. I cannot wait.


Sonya said...

This is heartbreaking to read. We love Keller just the way he is! Just this morning I was looking at some of his hand drawn pictures and stories about Egypt. Truly special considering he was only 6 when it was written. Keller never ceases to fascinate me with his wit, brains and creativeness.

I just asked Blaine who his best friend is, and he said "Keller" (which I knew would be the answer).

Michele H. said...

I have only met Mr. Keller once, but I immediately thought "that kid is cool." It's a hard go to be different, but I hope he finds a few friends to run with and continues to truly be himself. Is there an Egyptian history camp listed in the directory! ha.

lindie said...

One morning my mother had laid out my clothes for school. "No one wears those kinds of pants", I complained.

The kids in school had picked on me before about those pants and I was mortified at the thought of facing ridicule again.

"Why do you want to be like everyone else?" My mother said. Of course this came back to haunt her in my teenage years and it did nothing to alleviate my pain at the time but I now remember it fondly.

Keller is an ace. As long as he doesn't let the bullies tamp down his curious, poetic nature, it will all be just fodder for his genius, however he ultimately ends up expressing it.

lindie said...

p.s. Are you really thinking of coming back to NOLA?