You know what really feels crappy? Alienation.

At varying points in life, I’ve visited this lonely island. We all have. Sometimes it’s unintentional, the nature of a particular circumstance — first day at at new job, new school, new parenting group, new neighborhood, etc. Eventually we find our tribe, our place, and we skip along merrily. Other times, however, we find ourselves shipwrecked n’er a lifeboat in sight.

We recently moved to a new city. I love change, and I’m always up for an adventure. So for me, all of this newness was exhilarating. I’ve never been particularly shy and even during the awkward phase of acclimation, I do a good job of putting myself out there. I was even excited to meet up with a new group of homeschoolers. There’s something energizing about a fresh start – new opportunities and clean slates. Especially the clean slates.

I am the keeper of a precocious little human filled with big emotions. We work on managing impulse control, anger, and frustration levels. The frontal cortex is a doozy. Nicely put, and in new social circles, you might hear him described as “spirited” or “strong willed.” I have my very own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Fortunately, most of the time, he’s Dr. Jekyll.

The beautiful thing is that, with time and natural brain development, many of these issues will resolve themselves. His complex, gorgeous brain will ripen. He will become a delightful, distilled version of his younger, greener self. And, as so many others remind me, his traits of strength and leadership will serve him well when the world is ready for him, and/or when he’s adapted to the world.

But for now, we’re here. First impressions aren’t always met with glowing reviews. I’ve asked the Universe for a few do-overs. Some folks get it. They’re dealing with similar challenges. The real gems are the ones who don’t get it but are willing to listen, to learn, and to love eventually. These people make up my tribe. They allow me to feel safe and supported.

When your kid is dealing with some shit, that shit becomes your shit. He’s an extension of you. Buy one, get one free. Package deal. So, when I excitedly ventured out to our first homeschool park day, I was hoping that everyone would be delighted with our two-for-one special. And they were, for a few outings.

And then, they weren’t.

This is the painful bit. As a mama, I long to connect with other mamas. And I did, but remember: package deal. My son connected in his way – in a way that, over time, was not ultimately accepted. I get it. We’re working on stuff, and I have to step away from the party whether I’m ready to leave or not. I’ll play the role of designated driver, and sometimes I have to excuse my miniature “drunk” date and take him home.

I’ve always felt pretty good about who I am. Sure, I went through the pubescent doubts and concerns. But somewhere along the way I managed to find value and happiness in exactly who I am. Perhaps I marched to the beat of my own drum, although I never found it to be strikingly unique, just a little different. 

I suspect my son might be similar in some respects. He’s comfortable in his own beautiful skin. He’s in his youthful, joy-filled state of ignorance, and I won’t rob him of it. No way. He can unabashedly wear his unwashed military costume however many days in a row he wants. The rest of the world will take that freedom from him soon enough. So, I’ll embrace my son as he is without excuses.

He’s not received a particular label and, truth be told, I don’t believe any one label would be the right fit. I don’t like labels. He’ll move through life the same person he is now, albeit a more tempered version, society having taught him some lessons along the way. He’ll learn how to coexist. Or he won’t. He’ll learn that sometimes it’s worth blending in, and sometimes it’s absolutely worth being fuchsia in a crowd of grey.

So, for a while I’ll visit my island and find that, even in isolation, there can be joy, and peace, and space to process.

For now, that will have to do.