My son has been coming home from high school lately complaining of a stomach ache. He's done poorly on a couple of tests and blamed it on the pain. He's been reluctant to engage in activities he usually enjoys.
This sort of "school flu" is not unprecedented, and usually means that some part of his special-education program isn't working for him -- problems with a para, a bad mix of classmates, work that's confusing, help that's not helping. This is the sort of thing I suit up for, you know? But in this case, it appears, it's not school sickness but lovesickness. My boy's got girl problems.
And on one level, I'm all, "Yay! Normal teenage guy stuff!"
Quickly followed by, "Damn. Normal teenage guy stuff."
It's easy to attribute his cluelessness in matters of the heart to the fact that his emotional development is not exactly up to high-school speed, but really -- there are plenty of absolutely A-1 on-target eighteen-year-olds who don't quite get that it's not OK to let one girl think you're her boyfriend and then crush on her best friend. This stuff is hard for everyone, as witnessed by about 90 percent of popular music. And it's a challenge for every mom of a son to teach him how to be a man of honor, even if it makes his stomach hurt.
We're running the gauntlet now, my son and I, from the last IEP meeting (YAY!) to the end of the school year and graduation. The end of a sixteen-year journey through the special-education system is in sight, so close, but there are unexpected hurdles. Harder work here at mid-year. Professionals who think supports should be faded, even though his particular diagnosis argues strongly for keeping them up. A high-school community on alert for violence and bullying, and wielding Zero Tolerance like a blunt instrument. The possibility of absence seizures making focusing even harder. And of course, as I now discover, the hearts of teenage girls strewn about, ready to trip him up.
As for my heart, it's in my throat. Just get him through these last few months of school, Lord. Just get him through safely. Just get him through without hurting anybody, or getting involved in the kind of disputes over girls you read in tragic stories in the newspaper. Just get him through with decent grades, with a feeling of success, with a little self-confidence left over. I'm counting the days.
Terri Mauro blogs at About.com 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.