Monday, September 6, 2010

Popularity, Girlfriends and Senior Year

Today is the last day of summer vacation for highschoolboy (HSB). He has had a very quiet few months. He spent the summer with a little volunteering, a little work on the college application essay, a lot of down time and a lot of regrouping. He seems happier and more content than he did at the end of school last year. That is definitely a good thing.

We asked him whether he was excited to be going into his senior year of school. We know that for him change and transitions are really hard. We expected him to tell us that he was afraid of the year to come. We expected him to tell us that he wasn’t so sure about college. We expected him to tell us that he didn’t want to do anymore work and that he didn’t really care what physics was about. We expected him to tell us that he would rather be playing video games. But what we got was something none of us expected.

HSB isn’t looking forward to his senior year in school, because he is not a popular kid. In his words a school “celebrity.” Go figure? We definitely didn’t think that would have been a reason. Without a doubt, when he said that my immediate response was to feel so very bad for him. Hubby tried to make himself feel better by recognizing that at least the kids aren’t mean to him. This for the most part is very true, the kids don’t’ harass him or pick on him at all. I am not sure though just how much they do talk to him. Of course, we also did come up with a plan to help the situation.

First, I want to say that he had never spoken that he wanted to be popular. We knew that he wanted a girlfriend; he definitely likes girls and their company. But felt that his friendship skills were poor and needed to be worked on before he got to the all important girlfriend stage. So we never had the therapist talk to him about how to find a girlfriend. We had everyone work on the skills necessary to just be someone’s friend. We tried to emphasize to him that in order to be a boyfriend you need to know how to be a friend first. He never seemed to mind that idea. But the truth be told maybe while listening he just thought that “girlfriend” was something out of his reach for the moment.

I suppose in many respects it was my mothering instinct that led to the conclusion that I wanted. Not because I don’t want him to have a female companion, I am hoping that that happens, believe you me, but that I didn’t think the girls at school saw him as boyfriend material. He is still seen as the sweet little boy with problems that they have all known since kindergarten. I really didn’t want him hurt emotionally. Yes I know that it comes with the territory of “love” that there will be pain and growth in how to handle relationships. Yet, I was reticent because he has been so vulnerable and fragile in general recently. I didn’t want him to be rejected by a “girlfriend” right after he was rejected by his best friend since third grade. Over protective you say, most probably…

Honestly, at the moment no one, not a therapist, a tutor, a teacher, a social skills counselor actually thinks of the word “girlfriend” in relation to HSB. Everyone thinks of it in relation to collegeman however. It was really telling that when I took HSB to the Sylvan Learning Center near us, which the boys had gone to for years, the math tutor actually told me, not even having seen collegeman for years now, that the one thing he needed was a girlfriend. Truthfully, I agreed with her. But collegeman is so focused on his work that he can’t seem to conjoin two ideas at once. That is something we are working on with collegeman, the social piece at school. The college coaches we hired are making sure that he interacts during his down time and that he doesn’t just spend all his time in the library. Yes, for him we need to figure out a little more of a plan and figure out a way to make social discourse and interaction something that he wants to do. Not for employment purposes but for human purposes.

But back to HSB and his desire to be popular. I did meet with the special education team before school started and the first thing that I mentioned was this new found openness about wanting to be popular. They were as surprised as we were. But as we were it was also mixed with a sense that this was a good thing. HSB wanting to have friends, make friends and be part of a bigger crowd of people, is a step in the right direction. However, they also know that they would be charged with helping him learn how to accomplish this goal. They didn’t really seem to mind at all. They were thrilled at HSB’s growth emotionally, very pleased as a matter of fact.

Of course, we will have to get together to make sure that everything is going well and that they are actually making sure that the paras are helping him learn the social ropes. He will have large blocks of free time this year because he is a senior and I told them that I don’t want him spending hours playing in the computer lab. They need to find a way to get him into the lounge area, and to help him eat lunch in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, eating in the cafeteria may be a challenge in and of itself, because the noise in the cafeteria can be deafening. I also told them that I resubmitted the paperwork for him to be a part of the bowling team too. Joining a more interactive club may be a good idea too. Last year he joined the film club where they just sat and watched DVDs. Not really very social. Maybe back to a charity club where they have to think, talk and decide how to help others is on the agenda.

Another thing that I did was have his therapist help him try to figure out how he could interact with more people. They did come up with the idea that he would sit in the middle of the classroom rather than the outskirts of the seating area so he would have more opportunity to talk to people if the occasion arose. However, when I asked HSB about that idea, he did say that the seats are assigned and I am not sure that they are not going to sit him where he used to be for all these years. He tends to be seated near the door, which means there are fewer people to talk to. This seating arrangement affords him an easy out from the classroom if he gets overwhelmed without disturbing everyone else. However, we will see what happens. I have been trying to get a hold of his case manager to tell her, but being a holiday weekend she is definitely engaged elsewhere. (As she has a right to be.)

There is a senior BBQ today, but he doesn’t want to go. I know it is because he has no one to hang out with and that he doesn’t want to be seen with a “babysitter.” Hubby thought maybe he could go and stay in the background but HSB really wanted no part of that. The school did offer a para for the event, but I think HSB just wants to stay home. We told him he could go paint the cafeteria windows with all the senior names just like all the other seniors will be doing, it is a ritual they have here, but no, he didn’t want to go. Interestingly he doesn’t want to be there for the opening bell either. His class starts with bell two. He doesn’t want to go to the opening day assembly and have the official senior greeting for the year. That’s where the senior girls stand outside the school with signs that ask you to” honk your horn for the seniors.” Nope not interested he said.

I do think he is reticent about starting his senior year for more reasons than a lack of popularity. The transitions, the challenges and the schoolwork he doesn’t want to do is definitely on his mind. Putting off the inevitable is something he does really well too. He hasn’t organized his binders, folders or draws for school either. Keeps telling us that he will do it the next day. Finally HSB has realized there is no next day and that he did ask hubby to help him today. So maybe he is working himself up to the idea that whether he likes it or not, life is coming down the parkway.

On that note too HSB has decided that driving may not be a bad thing. He did receive his learner’s permit two weeks ago and has been going with hubby to go-karting. He got to drive the “permitted” go-kart track last time and he had a really good time. Seeing that he could actually control the go-kart has made him interested to see what would happen if he was behind the wheel of a car. He condescended to turn hubby’s car on in the driveway yesterday. He is also going to go with Hubby to an empty parking lot and try to drive the car for the first time today.

Finally in getting prepared for the beginning of the school year, HSB also wants to go back to Hubby-HSB official McDonald’s weekly school year breakfast starting tomorrow too. So we will see what we will see. Transitions, challenges, and a desire to be a teenager just like everyone else are coming our way. It’s going to be an interesting year to say the least.

Hold on to your hats….blast off.

Until next time,