I was invited by the Canadian International a few weeks ago to speak about my writing journey with the sixth graders. I have to admit I was nervous about it. It's one thing to read your book to the younger crowd, and a whole other thing to tell your story to a group of pre-teens. For one thing, it takes much less to impress a five year old than it does an eleven year old. Plus, five year olds don't really judge you; even if your story is not for them, they enjoy being around a real life author. It's lovely really.
So yes, I was nervous about standing in front of a large group of "big kids" to tell them why I decided to write. After all, my reasons had a lot to do with me becoming a parent... How would that resonate with them?
But, I didn't let that stop me. I made sure that talk was as "relatable" as possible, and I spoke from the heart. It's the only way I know.
I told those kids what had changed in my life to set me on this journey; I told them about wanting nothing more than to help a child who was made to feel different. I told them that I did everything in my power to make it all happen.
And they listened. They listened intently as I went on about my struggles as a mom and a new writer.
When I was done, although the questions didn't come as they do with younger children for very understandable reasons, they still came. And they were incredible questions about writing style, publishing options, future plans, and last but not least, high sensitivity.
I didn't go into detail about what it is to be highly sensitive; after all, that wasn't the topic of the talk at all. But the kids got it anyway, and they wanted to know more. Some of them commented that they could relate to my son because they often feel the same way. Some said they had friends and family who behaved in ways that are characteristic of the sensitive. One child even read 'Aiden Finds a Way' to himself and told me that he loved how subtle but clear the message was. I thanked him sincerely for saying that.
But one boy, at the very end of the session, came up to me while the others shuffled out of the classroom. He looked hesitant but he went on anyway. He told me that he'd always been "this way" and that he never really knew why. His clothes bothered him; loud noises bothered him; crowds bothered him. He spoke softly as he told me all this, his eyes wandering as he tried to remember the things that made him feel different all his life. And then he looked and me and said, "I'm like your son. I know how he feels. I feel the same way."
It took all I had to keep myself from tearing up in front of this beautiful child. And it took even more to stop myself from hugging him with all my might.
I have such great appreciation for these reminders I get every now and then of how important it is for us to know why we are the way we are; to really understand that there's nothing wrong with us; but most importantly, to know that we're understood.
All I can say is, I can't wait to speak to big kids again.