Rules of Engagement

“Excuse me, ma’am . . . Your son has some marker on his face?”

“IS HE OKAY?!  Your son just walked into that wall?”

“Should I be concerned that your son is hitting himself?”

Yes, I know.  He’s fine, thank you.  And nope.

My son has discovered Harry Potter; and like everything else that strikes his imagination–a beautiful spring flower, an inching caterpillar, a crockpot full of delicious food–Edgar has engaged with this tale of wizardry with all his being. 

Most days he sports Harry Potter’s scar on his forehead that he draws in with a marker.  He walks into walls to see if he can because that’s what Harry Potter and his classmates do to get to Platform 9-3/4 to board the train to Hogwarts.  And he is fascinated by Dobby the house elf, a self-flagellating slave, whom he “met” in The Chamber of Secrets.

Edgar doesn’t just watch a movie–or a concert or one of nature’s creatures: He joins the world he’s observing–temporarily but whole-heartedly.  When he ran one day into the kitchen in search of an apple and a pencil, I only had to look to see what was on the television to learn he was about to engage in an experiment similar to one he was watching.  When he looks at his poster from Blue Man Group, I can see the wheels turning and know exactly why he’s asking me for food dye (so he can re-create the red liquid that is housed in their drums).  When he curls up in a ball and rolls down the hill at the Jazz Festival, I know he is personifying a Battle Droid from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  And I know why he draws on himself, occasionally tries to walk through walls, and why he once in a while will hit himself. 

The problem is . . . the rest of the world doesn’t know the back story, the whole story–who Edgar is and who or what he is at that moment.  So the world worries.  And I appreciate it.  I really do.  If I noticed something that I thought was important enough to mention to another parent, I would.  But as much as the world might worry, I do not–because the same characteristics that allow Edgar to observe and then jump into the worlds he sees before him (or allow him to create complicated sculptures out of masking tape or an entire outfit out of plastic bags) are the same traits that make him one of the most empathic, kind, gentle, honest, and knowing people I have ever met.  He is a package–a fascinating, thought-provoking package–that will have to work to ensure that the world doesn’t misunderstand him.  Once that barrier is crossed, however, those who take the time to understand him will be justly rewarded. 

I have said before that there aren’t many people like Edgar.  And that is as true a statement today as it ever was.  Edgar is learning, though, that he sometimes will need to take a moment to explain to very well-meaning people why he is doing what he’s doing.  But, as his parents, we will never ask him to stop because to do so would be to squelch a spirit that is pure, perfect. 

Though Edgar is learning that he needs to exist in this world, I hope he is also learning that he does not have to change who he is to thrive in this world.  And as his mother, it is my fervent wish that the world remembers this, too, and embraces this unbridled soul.


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