JJ is different. He's always been different. He had trouble sleeping (and still spends nights in my bed), he had SO many ear infections his first year that he had speech and developmental delays, and he loves to repeat. He can also be ridiculously loud; sometimes, his concept of volume control does not exist. I've had him tested for autism on multiple occasions, and while he isn't on the spectrum, he does have autistic tendencies. He's been on an IEP, and that has done wonders...we are so fortunate to be in the school system that we are, because they have helped JJ grow by leaps and bounds. While our current daycare is fabulous, he was kicked out of another when they couldn't handle him and wouldn't work with us (but if he hadn't been kicked out, i probably would have put off all the testing i did, which would have delayed jj getting the help he needed to grow). While that boy is the light of my life and is so bright and funny and charming, he's different. That's always been fine with me, because I will always love him and support him, no matter what.

Today, though, I realized just how different he is.

We had Chick-Fil-A for dinner, and I let him play on the indoor playground equipment. There were other, older kids playing, so I sat in there with Mia to keep an eye on things. The older kids were annoyed that he was being a little louder than them and that he kept repeating what they said, and I felt myself getting defensive. I explained to JJ that he couldn't be loud because it was hurting their ears, and that he needed to use his own words and let them play. I also explained to the kids that JJ likes to repeat words and that's just something he does; he doesn't do it to be mean or annoy. One seemed to understand; the other ignored me but didn't say anything to JJ again. I'm glad I was in there to diffuse what could have been an escalating situation, but it made me sad. I can't always be there for JJ when he's in situations like that, and he doesn't understand yet that his repeating and loudness can annoy others (no matter how much i, along with many other adults, try to tell him). What would have happened if I hadn't been there? Would the kids have pushed him? Yelled at him? Been mean to him? Is that what he will face throughout his younger years, until he can get his differences under control?

I did get frustrated with JJ over the situation and cut our outing short. During our drive home, though, I apologized to him. I shouldn't have gotten short with him, because it's not his fault he's different. Why should he have to change who he is because he's not exactly like everyone else? As a parent, today's situation made my heart hurt, because I now fully realize the challenges JJ could face because he's different. The mama bear inside of me is more than ready to come out and swat at people who give my son a hard time (she came dangerously close to coming out today), and I do realize that JJ will need to learn how to handle things differently in public vs. private/home situations. But damn it. I just want the best for my child. I want him to be liked, and appreciated - not bullied or laughed at because he likes to repeat words, or because he doesn't like to eat vegetables.

Kids are cruel. I see stories all the time of kids - both younger and older - bullying each other, fighting each other, and that is not an environment I want JJ in at all. I know that I can't always control the situation, though, and I can't hold him back from experiences because I'm afraid of how he'll be treated. He'll never grow if I shelter him, even though the only thing I want to do is protect him from all the bad things out there that could hurt him - both physically and mentally.

Being a parent is so hard.

I guess the only thing I can do is protect JJ as much as I can, teach him how to handle situations like that (i think that will become easier as he gets older; the kid is only 5 years old, and i have to treat him like he's 5 and not force him to grow up faster than he already is), and be in his corner 100 percent. I support him, I love him, and I will do everything I can to provide the best for him. I just hope that that's enough to raise my different, brilliant, beautiful boy.