Friday, February 5, 2010
No, I don't want to be your Valentine
Tonight is the Valentine’s dance at my oldest son’s junior high school. So not only is it a school dance, which in and of itself brings a great deal of tween angst; it’s also tied to Valentine’s Day, which brings with it all the images of love and romance that I don’t think my 12-year-old should have anywhere on his radar yet.
But he does. And whose kid doesn’t, with everything they are exposed to these days? Dad and I do a pretty good job of keeping television shows appropriate, and we have parental controls on the computer; but you’d have to be living quite literally under a rock not to be inundated with the notion that we should all be hooking up with a hot guy/girl.
So if you know me or have read some of my past posts, you know that my oldest is a little bit on the naïve side, thanks to his genes and a nonverbal learning disorder (NLD) diagnosis. He is a dear, sweet, sensitive boy, who is twice as tall as the majority of his classmates. A gentle giant if you will. He’s not on the fast track to coolness, if you know what I mean, and although it can be painful sometimes, I think I like it that way because he’s very real.
Anyhow, there’s a girl at school named Sarah who he has befriended, and who is a year and a half older than him. And who I think is probably stringing him along like a puppy, but that’s all I’m going to say about that for now. (My mom-dar is working overtime on this one because it’s my first go-around with tween matters of the heart…and for poor G, my first time through everything is always with him since he’s my oldest.) I’m trying to let this thing run its course, and not get too involved.
Yesterday G asked me for $1 so that he could buy a rose to give to Sarah. I remember how they always used to sell the roses in junior high and high school around Valentine’s Day. I never got one. I’m not bitter. Anyway, I said okay, knowing it was probably not going to turn out the way he hoped.
Last night he filled me in on the details.
“Well mom, I bought a rose and gave it to Sarah,” he said. “I asked her to be my Valentine, and she said no.”
It’s so hard to look at my son, who is now only millimeters shorter than me, and hear the little boy inside who still needs his mommy. He looked sad, but more than anything, confused.
“She gave me a hug and said thank you. But she won’t be my Valentine at the dance.”
It’s moments like this where I have to fight not to 1) cry, and 2) go give that girl a talking to. We had a long talk about how he needs to understand that she really just wants to be friends. She’s clearly one of those girls who does just enough to keep him panting in the wings, and he’s so innocent that he gobbles it up.
So G goes on to explain to me that if you are going to go to the dance, you have to have a Valentine. This is when his innocence is so charming – and yet so heartbreaking, now that he’s older. He takes the phrase “Be My Valentine” completely literally (hello, NLD rearing its head), and thinks that in order to participate in any activities related to the holiday, you must HAVE a Valentine. I imagine him walking around at school among his relationship-savvy junior high peers asking girls if they will be his valentine, thinking it’s the only way he can go to the dance…my heart breaks just thinking about it. And I know it’s going to happen if I don’t intervene.
So this morning before school, I explained to him that he can go to the dance no matter what, with a friend, as the vast majority of the other boys will. I then strongly encouraged him not to randomly ask girls to be his valentine; how that was just a saying, but that you really didn’t go around asking people to be your valentine. Trying desperately to save him from getting teased at school. He promised he wouldn’t.
But this is what kills me. For every situation I catch, like this one, where I can arm him with the information to help him not make a fool of himself (and pray he actually follows my advice), I’m afraid to think of how many situations I miss, leaving him open and vulnerable to ridicule. This keeps me awake at night.