When I was a kid, I was often called a “late bloomer”. While those who uttered those two words always meant well, it always rubbed me the wrong way. I could never put my finger on why that phrase bothered me so much.
It still bugs me to this day. What standard am I being measured against?
Yes, childhood milestones are important, but when do those stop? What milestones are adults supposed to reach? Getting a car? Buying a home? Marrying? Having children? Getting a college degree? What happens to those who don’t achieve them?
The more I ponder on that phrase, “late bloomer”, the more I realize just how isolating it is. Not everyone reaches these cultural milestones, be it by choice or necessity. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. Are those childhood late bloomers doomed to be adulthood never bloomers?
Are we to stay buds until we fall, forgotten, to the ground?
Similar phrases are usually delivered with the best intentions, which makes them harder to handle. It’s natural to want to reassure a suffering child or young adult, but sometimes words fail.
At that point, it’s probably best to go silent and listen. Listen actively, and take the ideas of how to help to heart. Exclusion hurts, but that’s what happens on a regular basis when it comes to disability and chronic illness.
They Tell Me It’s Too Hard For Me
An example from my personal life happened in the fifth grade. That year, most students were required to take a second language. I chose Spanish, excited to learn more about a new culture. Unfortunately, I was pulled from class after a few sessions and told it was “too hard” for me. Yes, I struggled academically at the time, but couldn’t I be given a chance?
Now, language is hard. Even learning a first language is hard when you’re wired differently, but it’s still easier to pick up when young. Learning disabled kids could benefit hugely from becoming bilingual early on.
I can understand why they pulled me and exempted me from that graduation rule. I was already struggling with other classes, so it makes sense to decrease my load. My problem is with how the adults handled it. I was given no control. The message of not being smart enough came through loud and clear, even if it wasn’t intended that way.
In the end, it’s not the action itself that caused the harm, but how it was carried out. Could I have kept up with my studies? Looking back, I don’t know. Would I have liked to try? Absolutely. Maybe I would have succeeded, but I wasn’t allowed the chance at a young age. I still feel repercussions from that incident and others like it today.
I think that’s the way it is in many cases. There’s no manual for raising children, especially those who don’t fit into the same box their peers do, but isolating them isn’t the way to go. Based on being an oddball kid, adults working with me instead of taking the chance to try away helped the most.
That holds true as an oddball adult. Instead of telling someone they can’t do something, why not let them try it? Then, if they’re open to the idea, offer tips along the way. They might just surprise you.