Tuesday, September 23, 2008
18 and Contributing
As I’ve read in so many other blogs, it’s tough being a teenager with an ‘unseen’ disability. My son, Corey, is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. As a result, he misses many social cues and emotionally and socially is much younger than his 16 years. That was never more evident than this past Saturday evening.
Corey is in his high school JROTC. The group took a trip to an air station about two hours from home Saturday morning, and returned to the school at 6pm. Although he had ridden his bike to school, I decided to surprise him by picking him up, and then picking up dinner for us all. Imagine my surprise when I saw him get off the tour bus and walk hand in hand with a girl to a secluded spot under the trees behind the bus. This is the same boy who was JUST CRUSHED at the start of school because the girl he had been madly in love with decided she no longer was interested in him. And here he was, picking up the pieces and rubbing his hands all over them.
Setting my surprise aside – it really is a surprise to see for the first time your teenaged child engaged in ‘contact’ sports – I pulled the car up, honked the horn and gestured for Corey to come to my car window. I asked if he wanted a ride home – he didn’t – and what he wanted for dinner – he told me. And then before I could put the car in reverse, he and the girl were once again glued together.
I picked up dinner and formulated my ‘discussion’ plans. This is new territory for me, so I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed. What I did was keep the discussion lighthearted but with a very definite message that couldn’t be missed, even by a child with Aspergers.
Corey is 16 years old. He told me the girl was 18. I know that’s not a big difference, but in my state, such contact translates to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the girl. I continued to explain the possibilities of their actions, and left it at that. I could tell he was thinking over everything the rest of the weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised when he came to me Sunday night as I was washing dishes and said, “I’m going to break up with [18 year old girl] because I don’t want her to get in trouble.” Although I still don’t understand the ‘dating-breaking up’ concept used by today’s teenagers, I was proud of him for thinking of someone other than himself, and not letting his hormones rule his brain. Of course, seeing [18 year old girl] at school on Monday could change everything.
But, Monday evening, Corey came to me again and said that [18 year old girl]’s father agreed with me and that the two of them were going to ‘just be friends’. I’m not sure that the raging hormones won’t rule yet again, but for now, I am very proud of my 16 year old, and hope that he has become just a little more adept at interpreting social cues.