Super Power 2.0

I wrote the original version of this essay in January – and beefed it up in the weeks following – for publication here on my blog and it ended up being the piece I chose for my audition for the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Baltimore show. Once I was selected to be in the cast, I had to pull it from my blog until after the show, per the agreement I signed with LTYM. I’m sure you know by now that our show was on Saturday, May 9 because my FB and Twitter are flooded with photos and articles about it. I SWEAR I’m working on a post that I hope will do justice to the transformative sisterhood and storytelling movement I’ve been lucky enough to be part of since that cold February day in a Baltimore public library meeting room. In the meantime, here is the edited, slightly shorter, stage version of Super Power that I read on show day. 

I spent a recent morning telling one of my kids that his high sensitivity is a gift, one that thankfully includes a lot of creativity and fun and joy, but also, I know, a lot of pain. And of course my kid cried harder as he told me how much he hates it, that he didnt ask for it, that he doesnt want it, that he feels like his insides are being torn apart when he feels things so deeply this way. He wailed as he told me how angry it makes him. I told him it’s ok to be angry and to hate it, that I still hate it sometimes too. He sat up and looked at me, absorbing the possibility that I might understand because in some ways, I share his experience. And then he asked me to pray for him and I did, while in the privacy of my mind, I also shook my fist at God a little. Because navigating this high sensitivity with my son – which, yes, translates into GIGANTIC PAIN IN THE ASS sometimes – and addressing his associated special needs has been a lot. And I had the audacity to believe we were past the a lot part after years of Early Intervention for global developmental delays and a moving target of diagnostic theories. But were not.


The Early Intervention we bombarded him with was highly successful. By all accounts my son is a miracle, once teetering on the edge of an autism spectrum diagnosis, and now most certainly not. We thought we were out of the woods until he hit a wall. We’re still in the process of peeling back more of his layers, but most recently we learned that he has severe ADHD, and that hes highly gifted with a significant learning disability, all of which necessitated a change of school program for him this year. New school, new kids, new everything, rough times for such a highly sensitive little boy.


Mothering my highly sensitive children has been a full-time gig for me. My son’s high sensitivity is off the charts, and it’s especially tricky because he’s also an extreme extrovert. Maybe you can imagine a scenario in which every stimuli, every single piece of input that is encountered by your brain, body and heart, no matter how subtle, impacts you on the very deepest level. And instead of finding ways to shield yourself for respite, you seek more. That’s how life is for my son, nothing gets by him. EVER. He engages with people and his surroundings in ways that are profound, extraordinary. It’s utterly amazing, and it can also be exhausting, overwhelming for all involved, especially him. It’s not a choice, it’s how he’s wired. 


 And while it’s the honor and joy of my life to guide these children on their respective journeys, truthfully, sometimes, it also drives me to drink and cuss like a sailor and fantasize about running for the hills or the beach or anywhere but here.


What was I saying? Oh yeah, I prayed. Dear God, how I prayed, because I want this kid to be able to embrace who he is and I want him to believe that there is room for him and his differences in this world, that he won’t be wrecked by them.


And after I prayed, I told him that this gift, this talent, this high sensitivity, is actually more like a SUPER POWER, one he has to practice how to manage and how to use for good because with great power comes great responsibility. Yep, thats it, just like Spider-Man. Responsibility to himself, and to others. He cracked a cautious smile. He said hed rather be a normal kid who is appreciated for being a good athlete or something instead of lying awake at night wondering about the meaning of life, and that hes disappointed in our society for not appreciating gifts like his. Somebody help me. My heart. The kid just turned 9 years old.


I went on to tell him that as he grows, he’ll understand that the world needs people with hearts and minds and wiring like his. “For what?”, he asked. “To create, for one thing, and to pay attention to stuff that really matters, to see things that others might not see, to share it, to put it into words”, I said. “Or comic books, or graphic novels?”, he asked. “Exactly”, I said. 


I told him that his SUPER POWER isnt something he needs to fix, not at all. Its more like a long, exciting, mysterious journey to collect and fit together pieces of a puzzle. He asked how long this journey will last…”HOW LONG, MOM?”


didnt want to tell him that it will likely be a large portion of his lifes work for as long as hes here on this earth, work that will sometimes wear him out, discourage and overwhelm him. I didn’t want to tell him that he will need to be vigilant in that work and the resulting fatigue so as not to shut off parts of his heart like I sometimes do. No, instead I told him that while it took me well into my adulthood before I even began to identify and understand my own high sensitivity, his older sister has become a pro at managing hers and using it for good too. She’s proud of it, even though it’s really hard sometimes. And finally, I told him that because we know so much more about this now, Im certain that with our support and the many tools available to him, he will put his puzzle pieces together much faster and he’ll get to a comfortable, confident place much sooner. I told him that he’ll continue to learn to unleash and manage his awesome energy – or “funky flow” as he calls it – in a beautiful way, energy he feels is sometimes frustratingly locked up inside him. 


My story of mothering my son doesnt have a neat and tidy beginning, middle or end. Its a continuously flowing river of little moments that fill our days, and as we do this life together – often joyfully, sometimes painfully – I realize more and more deeply who my son is in the world, beautifully different, but worthy, nonetheless.  I’ll never stop lifting him up or affirming him and I’ll never stop praying that he will learn to enjoy and celebrate his gift and to use his SUPER POWER well, not try to escape it or hide it or interpret it as defective. Amen.





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