Sunday, November 13, 2011


I like to think of myself as the kind of special-needs parent who's developed a strong sense of what's important and what's small stuff not to be sweated. I don't want to waste my time mooning over my children's lack of typicality when they're doing such amazing things with the abilities they've got. I know a lot of parents find it useful to grieve for the children they might have had and mourn the death of their dreams, but that's not me. Maybe because I adopted my kids knowing they had special needs, I've never any illusions to be shattered.

And yet, it's hard to deny that some mainstream milestones have an emotional pull, even as I understand their insignificance. Right now, I'm fighting not to be seduced by prom.

Truly, truly, I say to myself, truly I don't care if my kids go to their senior prom. My daughter missed hers, and was enormously not disappointed by that, so why should I feel sad? It involves many things she hates deeply: wearing a dress, wearing a fancy dress, getting a hairdo, putting on makeup, wearing high heels, being a girly girl. I tell myself that my sadness for her is not over the lack of a prom experience, but the fact that she didn't have a group of friends who would persuade her to go. Prom itself? Pish! An expensive evening of not much fun. 

So now it's my son's turn to be a senior, and why on earth would I want him to go to the prom? He and a couple of friends went to the junior prom and hated it so much they called us to come rescue them. The big, expensive senior version? Does not sound like a fun night. Chances are high that, once the eating part was done, he'd be on the phone again, asking to come home from the pricey evening in his pricey tuxedo. It would make so much more sense to take the money that prom would cost and spend it on something he and his friends would actually enjoy. Heck, half the money that prom would cost could buy them something they'd enjoy.

And yet ... there's that pull.

Unlike my daughter, he does have someone he could go with, a female friend who, although the big event is most of a school year away, has already made it clear that she would really like to go to the prom. I should be telling her mother no, no way, bad idea, disastrous evening ahead. I should rescue him from those expectations. That's the kind of thing I do every day, keeping it real, assessing risks and rewards, setting up for success, changing the environment. Prom is a problem-rich environment if ever there was one. The practical, realistic, celebrate strengths mom I like to be knows it's a ridiculous thing to consider, and it's not like he's the one who's dying to go.

But secretly? The thought of my boy doing something as ragingly typical as going to the prom? Is thrilling.

If only I could believe it was more about him than about me.


Terri Mauro blogs at Parenting Special Needs and Parenting Isn't Pretty. She has two terrific kids, a 21-year-old with learning and language disabilities and an 18-year-old with FASD, both adopted from Russia in 1994.