I’ve been filling out questionnaires for Max’s school testing that will commence next month. Questionaires about his behaviors, his medical history, his social interactions, and his health. It brings up such strange feelings. My purpose never changes. I knew the first time he said he would stab himself to death when he was a toddler that I was going to be filling paperwork out and fighting for his well-being and begging others to see what I see and help me help him.
But being firm of purpose doesn’t mean you don’t experience a full range of emotions while doing what you need to do for your kid. Evaluating your kid, trying to be as completely honest and as objective as possible even though you can never be objective about your own child – it’s a strange banquet of memories you trawl and sift. It’s a test of your own ability to separate your child from your skin, from your heart, enough to give solid information.
I think the most surreal thing to me is to be evaluating his social interactions and to know that he sees them so differently. He was Skyping with one of his oldest and few friends the other day and I heard his friend’s friend say “I don’t much like this Max guy” and then they hung up on Max. I asked Max if he was hurt by that. He says “What?” I said “That kid just said he doesn’t like you. Did that hurt your feelings?” He says “No. Why should it?”
That’s everything in a nutshell. Max doesn’t care if people don’t like him. He doesn’t care if they’re rude to him if he perceives that they’re just being honest. Because that’s how he is himself. He doesn’t understand why people get ruffled by the things he says or why people get hurt when he’s honest. But Max loves having friends. He just doesn’t keep them very easily. The few he keeps tolerate his seemingly abrasive political and social rants and his blatantly unfiltered thoughts and opinions without much offense. It takes a special kind of person to love Max in spite of his obsessive interests and narrow topics of conversation.
I was hurt. Hearing that kid say he didn’t much like my son was bitter and choking. I know a lot of people feel that way about Max too who never say it out loud. He doesn’t feel the slights but I feel them all. Every single one. He has so little idea of how much he exacerbates and annoys people. He only notices and cares about the really loud ones and the people in positions of authority who don’t like him because it has a strong impact on his comfort.
So I can’t be objective. I know it’s unrealistic to expect it of myself. Still, I need his issues to be taken seriously and so I have to take my role as observer seriously too. I have to continue to hone my skill of separating the chaff of my motherly emotions from cool observation that might actually get him the help he needs.
The hardest things to evaluate are things like “Acts strangely” – how the hell can parents as strange as Philip and I judge what is strange or not strange behavior? We’re the WEIRDSLEYS personified! I was a goddamned suicidal teen! Philip was an introverted artist and definite odd-ball. We couldn’t have married each other otherwise.
This week Max and I have talked a lot about sex and sex-ed as presented in school. He has many complaints to report. He says the school talked more about the virtues of abstinence than they did about protection. He also really hates that some kids his age snicker at the word “penis” and “vagina”. I’m so happy he’s bringing these topics up. I’m so happy we’re having the opportunity to discuss birth control and sexuality and what real “virtue” is.
Here’s my distilled stance on sexuality in a nutshell as discussed with my 12 1/2 year old:
- Abstinence is not stupid if you aren’t ready to have sex and/or you feel it’s important to wait and certainly is a valid form of birth control, IF you can really BE abstinent.
- There is no greater virtue to abstinence than there is to having careful and protected sex.
- Sexuality isn’t a contest of virtue, it’s a natural human urge and action and there is no shame in being a sexual being.
It is irrelevant how many sexual partners you have or don’t have. The most important thing is this:
- Honesty. Be honest in all your sexual relationships. Be honest about what you want, what you’re about, whether you’re just wanting sex or you’re open to more. Don’t cheat on a partner. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver.
- Safety. Unless you are in a long-term serious relationship – always protect yourself with a condom. STD’s are real. Some are just uncomfortable nuisances while others can kill you. Unwanted pregnancies present young people with impossible choices no matter what your politics are. Always take precautions.
- Consensual actions. Never ever force another person to do things they’re uncomfortable with doing no matter how much you want them to do those things. When someone says “no”, even after having said “yes”, it’s time to STOP. Likewise – never let anyone pressure or force you to do anything intimate you aren’t completely comfortable with. You always have the power to say “no”.
- I am always here to talk to and I will not judge, I will only try to help and protect and heal my child/teen/adult.
We have discussed so much this week. I used to dread the time we would have to have these talks. Now that the time has truly arrived I feel up to the task. We have fleetingly discussed masturbation (how it’s healthy and normal which he already knew) and how even if you believe in a woman’s freedom to have an abortion it is still, for most women, a dreadful and emotional choice to have to make, and the difference between a healthy libido and a slut.
We discussed how “slut” is a pretty charged and judgmental word to use.
We discussed how it’s okay to have a strong libido if you:
- Protect yourself.
- Respect yourself.
- Respect your partners.
- Remain honest at all times.
We discussed douchebaggery.
There’s not a lot more I can do and yet there’s so much ahead of us. I’m haunted by my need to protect him and to simultaneously set him free.
I know what I know in my gut. My gut has yet to steer me wrong.
Stay the course, keep the shovel close at hand.