April 11, 2013 by Marj Hatzell
Ah, Adolescence. The perfect storm.
My boy has changed so much since middle school has started. He’s more self-aware, more aware of what’s going on socially, more independent and more responsible. He’s handling his emotions better, realizing what he’s feeling and owning it. He’s got much better self-control. He doesn’t make daily trips to the nurse (sensory break!) at 2pm and he isn’t coming home and falling apart.
Most days. Ahem.
He’s currently having a whirlwind of emotions. While he can advocate quite well when it comes to adults, he’s having trouble navigating his peers. He has difficulty making new friends and sustaining relationships. He WANTS friends. He WANTS to fit in. But other kids? They just don’t get him. And I’m not sure he gets THEM.
It’s no surprise to me that he’s more comfortable around other kids with autism. His best buddies, for the most part, are either Aspies or having a tough time socially (and with executive motor function). There’s a whole gang of them that hangs together. They belong to the same clubs, are in the same math class and have deep discussions about Minecraft at Lunch. When they get together they dig trenches and set up army men and recreate the Johnstown Flood. They watch movies and rip it to shreds because it was NOTHING LIKE THE BOOK THIS IS SO STUPID AND THIS SCENE IS SO FAKE I MEAN REALLY.
But even there he has difficulty. Right now he wants to QUIT ALL THE THINGS. He wants to quit orchestra, though he wants to continue with private violin lessons. He wants to quit his newly-acquired percussion lessons because he’s afraid of the High School Marching Band instructor, even though he won’t be there for three more years. He wants to quit fencing. He isn’t sure he wants to do diving this summer. He doesn’t want to go to any of the summer camps I’ve mentioned. I’m trying very hard to hold the balance between allowing him to make choices that make him happy and not allowing him to withdraw completely.
But that’s what he’s doing.
There’s a big-deal trip coming up for school. All year the 6th graders study a particular country. It’s sort of a theme for the year. They talk about the UN, geography and world culture. It’s pretty cool, actually. It culminates with a trip to the UN in NYC. For this trip they need a plethora of chaperones. Naturally, someone from the house of DG will attend (either TGILW or myself). But the kids have been charged with making their own groups this time. Groups of six. The problem? The 6th grade is divided into two teams. Team A goes one day and Team B goes the following week. Guess where the majority of his buddies are?
That’s right! The other team.
So even though the kids in one of his club teams is on the same 6th grade team he is? He cannot bring himself to ask the other kids about being in a group. He tried to get me to email everyone and I did mention it to their parents but ultimately want to leave it to them to decide. And my boy is panicky. Because he’s worried he’ll end up IN A TEAM OF GIRLS. Or worse yet, with a few other “misfits” (his term).
That brings us to a whole other level self-awareness. My boy is currently aware that he doesn’t fit in with the majority of the other kids. He realizes he is different. And while he celebrates his differences and is totally cool with them, he isn’t cool with the difficulty he is having navigating the Social Seas.
And that breaks this Momma’s heart.
And all I can do is talk to him, assure him, reassure him and give him some ideas on how to do it.
But when you’re talking to your child for the UMPTEENTH time about making his group and talking to other kids and finding out who has six and who needs another or two, and he says,
“This sucks. I’m never going to find a group. The other kids all think I’m a weirdo.”
It’s really hard to keep things in perspective. Especially when hearing that makes you want to cry.