It’s not easy being 2e. Not for anyone. Not for the 2e kid, his or her family, their extended family and friends, or the general public we come in contact with each day. An eleven year old’s weird ways are not cute anymore. It is was much easier to forgive a toddler’s disruptive or strange actions. When my son picks his nose and eats it, or stands up repeatedly in the theater, or touches everything in the store, people look at me as if I somehow didn’t read the parenting manual. Trust me, I am fully aware of all of his annoying qualities. I understand that his behavior makes you uncomfortable.

I know I come across as too lenient sometimes, but I am just picking my battles. I have to walk the fine line of pushing him hard enough to help him grow, but not so hard that he feels like a complete failure. It might not seem like it, but he is highly sensitive to how others feel about him. He wants to be “normal” but his disabilities make it extra hard to conform. If he was physically disabled people wouldn’t expect him to just overcome that difficulty; but because he looks “normal” on the outside, people are less apt to cut him some slack. Parents of neurotypical children don’t understand that I live every day wondering how much worse things are going to get. The specter of my son as non-functional adult haunts me all the time.

Every day, without giving it another thought, parents with neurotypical kids do things that I would love to be able to do with ease. Like eating in a restaurant, for example. We can’t blend in, my son talks too loud, he jumps up and flaps his hands when he is excited, he won’t eat most of the food on the menu. I get that he is loud and disruptive. I go to bed many nights with my ears ringing. I would love nothing more than to live in a quiet environment; but he has trouble understanding how loud his voice really projects. He bumps into things and people because he does not know where his body is in relationship to the world around him. I can see how others might think that I am allowing rude behavior and I should be a stricter parent. Maybe they are right. Perhaps if I removed him every time he talked too loud or moved too much, he would stop talking loudly and jumping around. Or maybe he would just stop talking.

Families with 2e kids have a monumental task in helping their kids socialize and make meaningful connections to others. I am so grateful when my son carries on a reciprocal conversation. I am too focused on the fact that he finally asked me something about my day to notice that his volume is turned way up. Or perhaps I am so thrilled he is actually eating something slightly different than his normal rigid diet, that I may not correct him for standing up while he’s doing it.

But even when he is quiet and still, he doesn’t fit in. I see people staring at him when he does something odd, like pressing his hand into his pizza slice and slowly rotating it in the light to examine the reflective patterns in the oil. Or refusing to eat his grilled cheese sandwich because, despite our desperate instructions to keep it whole, it came cut in half. We really were not being jerks about sending it back and ordering another one served whole. I wish I could somehow help people understand that we are not coddling him, or making him weird, or allowing bad behavior; we are just trying to get through the day with our family in one piece.

The stressors we are dealing with are often not obvious to people who don’t live with a 2e kid. I don’t know too many people who would lick the toilet seat to try to show their germphobic kid that it is safe to use the toilet. Or experience the frustration of having to choose between crooked teeth or an exhausting physical battle at every visit to the orthodontist. How about trying to figure out how to teach your kid to identify and respond to being hungry, hot, cold, in pain, or tired? Or how to understand and interpret facial expressions and body language? Most parents won’t know how it feels to be over the moon because, for the first time in his life, your 10 year old kid spontaneously gave you a hug. Our quiet desperation comes from the relentless need to explicitly teach our children every nuance of life in a “normal” world. Most children will learn what is socially acceptable just from living in the world with other people. Not our kids.

We often feel judged and misunderstood by the world at large. Sometimes we just need a safe harbor, someone we can vent with who won’t misunderstand or judge. We are not asking for solutions, just acceptance. We need some places where we can visit without having to apologize or walk on eggs. Families of 2e kids need some respite. 2e kids need acceptance and understanding. It would be wonderful if people stopped putting expectations for “normal” on our kids. They probably aren’t meant to walk a normal path anyway. Who knows how their lives will turn out, what they will do in the world, or how they might impact your life? Whatever the future holds, they have the right to be accepted for the unique, wonderful, difficult, weird children that they are.


21 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being 2e

  1. Can you hear the heavy sigh? I hear youand I get it. I just read that the blood cortisol levels (objective measure of stress) of parents who have a child with autism, for example, are higher than those of veterans returning from Iraq. Add to that the tremendous pressure that comes from a highly gifted child’s intensity, drive to mastery, and well, just plain quirkiness, and I assume we are all off the charts. WHY does my son shy away from so many social situations? It’s NOT because he isn’t friendly, or that he doesn’t need meaningful relationships just like everyone else. It’s just that he has learned, very painfully, that who he is at the most fundamental level (something he cannot change and that I”m uncertain he really should given that it might come at the cost of an intellectual lobotomy) and that others find him, as he is, well, choose your adjective: weird, abnormal, defective, odd, disgusting, or just plain icky…that his same age peers call him “retarded when his IQ is 180 (at least), but that his inability to catch a ball or be “sporty” is apparently, the single biggest tragedy that can befall of a middle school boy in public school. Well, except for being overweight. That means, apparently, that you have no right to live–something his peers in public school felt quite free to tell him as he passed them in the hallways absorbed with writing his own operating system and while using his laptop as a security object (“You know,, Mom, I realize that I can’t equal Apple or LInux, but it’s such a great way to learn how any operating system works, don’t you agree?). As I write this, my brilliant, beautiful and ever so different is upstairs using his dance pad (thump thump thump) which drives me to distraction–but someone, please, tell me how to say he has to stop when I know he desperately wants to learn how to dance, and is trying to lose weight HIS way? That his computer is his “best friend” makes perfect sense…it never judges him, takes him wherever he is, offers a passport to the strange land of normal, one he can flee at the touch of a button. At 15, the bedwetting finally stopped–suddenly, and on its own. Do you know how ashamed it makes me feel, to know that I rode him for YEARS over something he just could not DO yet…asynchrony and all?
    Family members don’t get it–they WANT to love him, and they try, but he is hard for them to relate to…his uncle wants to go outside and throw a football around, and my mother doesn’t get the inability to hit a stationary toilet bowl target by feet, not inches…He loses sleep over environmental crises like BP, or the nuclear reactors in Japan…but he can’t remember that picking your pimples in public grosses everyone out? Hell yes, I protect him. He’s my little boy (all 5 ft, 10 inches ). He has come so far, OVERCOME so much, finds information far more accessible than people, and WANTS to be “normal” but can’t. I saw it so clearly on Easter, when we went on a family picnic–he loped like an oversized deer across the meadow, with a string tied to a soda can and twirling like a dervish as it sprayed out in all directions–than lay down and let the little kids cover him in just mowed grass. Odd doesn’t even begin to describe it–and the “family” asked me if I saw what he was doing. “Sure do”, I replied. After a very pregnant pause I added “He is who he is–it’s not my job at 15 to turn him into someone else–we’ll have to ask him which of Einstein’s ideas or his own he was testing out just now”. Everyone smiled in that loving, slightly disapproving way only those who love you most can when judging you…and you know what? I only cared a little–and my goal is to stop caring at all. Hang in there, Mama bear. Hang in there, little cub. As the boundaries of “normal” continue to squeeze in on all of us, some of us get it, and are pusing back just as hard as we can.

    1. Thank you Cheryl, for your understanding, your beautiful, eloquent words, and your mentoring. Knowing your boy gives me great hope, he is an outstanding human being πŸ™‚

    2. Cheryl. I just discovered at 41 I am 2e. I didn’t even know I was severe ADHD until 2 yrs. ago. Because of meds and skill building, plus CBT, psych education in college, and relentless pursuit of information to help my 3 kids and try to catch up “fast” to my potential so I can help them even better to reach theirs, I “accidentally” trained myself into a rare procedural memory condition called “genius”. Please research the procedural memory parts first and you will SEE your son’s brain and hopefully you can make more sense of it. I can tell you that you DO have an Einstein. He has already broken the “seal” and mastered the automation of procedural memory. He needs an environment 100% focused around that. If no one in the expert field can help, and this makes any sense to you, please contact me. If you want to see your son in someone else (who he would probably be very similar to and be able to bounce the complex abstract theories he is already inventing in his head off of for feedback and exploration) please look up Jacob Barnett. He is 2E as well. It is just so rare that someone is 2E and masters automation of procedural memory. Some rare examples are only (I believe from my research so far) DaVinci, Einstein, and Sophocles. You have that ALREADY in your son. He doesn’t NEED teaching. He KNOWS how to teach. He needs someone just like him that can help him plug in the missing knowledge that completes his genius theories. I hope that helps and I’m glad I found your page on the journey to learning more about Adult 2E. (Oh and society WILL appreciate him and he will be much better socially the MOMENT you have him acknowledged by people like Jake Barnett). He needs to develop and refine the skills, not the knowledge. Only another like him can help him do that. Best of luck!

  2. Can you hear the heavy sigh? Hard doesn’t really capture it. I just read that the blood cortisol (stress hormones) of a mother of a child with autism are higher than those of returning soldiers who saw combat in Iraq. Can’t say I’m surprised. Add to that the “gifted” piece, and climbing Mt. Everest sounds like a piece of cake. When so called peers in public school call my “retarded” because he can’t catch a football, and entirely MISS that he is working on writing his own operating system “just to learn how it’s done”, when he commits the apparently mortal sin of failing to notice the pasta sauce on his face and is told he is a loser by the same kids whose sound system he repaired intuitively because he heard them complaining about the equipment, when the family picnic gets a tad frosty because he ties a rope to a shaken soda can, pops the lid and SPINS to better understand the physics of fluid dynamics (and also because spinning just plain feels good, even at 15) and we get sprayed…it all adds up to a wounding after wounding of him, and of me. This is my little boy, people. He may lope across the meadow like an awkward, overweight deer and let the little kids bury him in the grass–but his Stanford Computer Science prof wrote that he will likely be “one of the brightest programmers of our age”. I imagine he will still pick his pimples while he waits to see if his code is working… but then, the ten thousand dollars he earned breaking security systems for online companies who hire him can buy a lot of benzoyl peroxide.
    This kid has been called retarded and a genius, abnormal and special, brilliant and obtuse. Whatever else he is, he will also be my son, and I will always bristle like any mother bear worth her weight when he is threatened. He is growing, he is learning, he is trying so incredibly hard…as I write this, he is upstairs in his room using his dance pad, and the house is reverberating. It’s downright annoying. Trouble is, I know he is trying to lose weight–his way. He finally stopped wetting the bed–he just got there. I am ashamed of all the time I spent trying to get him there before he hurt him. He was trying. I am trying. As the boundaries of normal constrict for all of us at an alarming rate, our 2E kids have to know that at least they have some of us pushing back as hard as we can so they don’t get crushed before they change the world.Good for you, Mama bear, and good for you, little flapping numbers guy. I am so glad you are here on the planet with us.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I admire your parenting. You have also reminded me that it’s important to accept my adult 2e friends as they are (after all, I want them to accept me.) And fight the urge to recommend AAA membership when one drops a car on himself trying to change a flat tire in the middle of the night, teaches himself to drive a forklift with two cracked ribs and dislocated shoulder and collarbone, so he can lift the car and change the flat, and then drives home to Ffacebook about it, instead of calling 911 or going to the ER.
    2e is what we are, and what we’ll ever be. Keep standing up fo and protecting your precious child, especially from well meaning relatives.

    1. Thanks Kimi for a glimpse into my son’s future adult world?! πŸ™‚ I am grateful for your support and it is great to know there are lovely people like you supporting 2e people throughout their lives.

      1. Thank you for this-this post, this forum, this safe place of understanding and sharing.

  4. I have two nt’s but I empathize with what you are going through. The more parents get their 2e kids out in public the more the public will get used to 2e’s. It sounds like your kid has a lot to offer. I pledge not to judge you or your 2e negatively for his strange behavior but to recognize and acknowledge his uniqueness and potential.

    1. Thank you Ellie, that means alot. We are out in public more and more πŸ™‚ and it is great to know there are families like yours who are supportive.

  5. My son is also 2e. And so much of what you said rings true. It’s tough even with our extended families. I don’t blame others for judging me…sometimes I’m judging myself. Is this the right thing to just let go. Should I be pushing him harder…am I pushing him too hard. Each day is a new world for him. And some days that’s frustrating…but on many days, it means I get to experience the world in a way not many other people can. Tough yes, but also damn lucky to be his mom.

  6. Yikes, but if you lick the toilet seat, it won’t be clean anymore! LOL!

    I try to make it a point to let parents of “disruptive” children know that I’m so glad their kids are the ones disruptive that day and not mine…. that it’s their turn to be embarrassed that day and not mine. Of course, in reality, my kids are rarely disruptive (in my eyes), but when they are, it can be really unexpected and intense, especially when it’s in public. Other people can be so unhelpful.

    Once when someone passively-aggressively complained about my kids on the plane, I asked them if they knew there was a first-class option on the plane. I mean, management is the only one with the right to talk to you about your [family’s] behavior, and if they do, you can sue them. LOL!

    It’s like the whole breast-feeding movement. Let’s be in public and desensitize the world. I find nothing odd about your kids (although they do seem atypically grounded and centered). I find non-non-neurotypical kids rather atypical and kind of a mystery. For me, “weird” people are people. The other kind of people are really curious and awesome to examine!

    1. I used to go into bathroom stalls before my sister to line the seats (and sometimes floor) with toilet paper for her (sorry trees!). Have you tried using those disposable seat covers?

  7. I was a 2e kid that grew up with parents who weren’t educated enough to know how to deal with me and I was bullied in school. Luckily I met a few angels in my life. Now I’m studying my postgrad in a top university. My parents struggled without understanding but eventually accepted me for me. Sometimes things turn out better than the struggles may suggest. He’s going to turn out well. Persevere πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Justine. So happy that you had people in your life that made a difference. Congratulations on your postgrad work. It is so nice to hear success stories πŸ™‚

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