Thursday, October 15, 2009


I think parents whose children have learning differences tend to worry more than parents whose children have no learning issues. In my opinion, as a parent of the former, this extra worry factor is both normal and justified.

My son is much more trustful than other adolescents, and in some ways more naive. Because it is sometimes hard for him to make friends, he finds it easier to talk to people who take the first step.

When he was doing out-patient therapy five years ago, he got in the habit of stopping at Starbucks. The baristas knew him and what he ordered, and one (Steve) was particularly nice to my son. One day my son called me at work to tell me he met a really nice guy at Starbucks. The guy was “in his 30s I think” and they talked about school and “stuff.” My internal alarms started going off, but I was able to get enough details to get the sense that the meeting was benign. Nonetheless, I called the Starbucks, and spoke to Steve, explained who I was (“grande caramel frappacino’s Mom”) and told him about the conversation I had just had with my son. Steve recalled seeing the guy and, while he was not a regular, Steve told me that he seemed okay. I asked him to just keep an eye on my son whenever he came in and Steve said no worries. And then I had no worries (fewer worries, anyway).

Yesterday my son took a bus to a nearby mall. Since he was not sure of the schedule, he ended up waiting about forty-five minutes at the depot downtown. He called last night to let me know that he was able to get a charger and he was all set. And, by the way, “I started talking to this guy who was also waiting for the bus.” The man, apparently in his fifties, told my son that he was learning disabled; I don’t know what else they talked about in that time. But they exchanged phone numbers and last night my son told me the fellow had called him and left a message. My son was not sure if he should call back or not. My gut was screaming “NO!” My mouth said, Gee, that’s a tough call. You’re trusting like Dad and I am very distrustful most of the time. But IF you decide to call him back, please don’t make plans to meet him anywhere alone, please make sure you’re in a public place, and please only in the daytime. You need to be careful.

So today he called me about lost keys (another entry) and told me that the man had called him twice last night when my son answered and called him again this morning and left a message. All of this contact was setting off my son’s own internal alarms. Plus he said the message the man left (“I have something to tell you”) felt "off" to my son. Time for me to put my foot down: "Okay, please don’t call him back and don’t answer if he calls you. I’m sure he will eventually give up, but if he continues to call and you’re concerned, go to the campus police and let them hear the messages."

You want your child to make friends; you want her to be more outgoing with peers; you want him to be part of a group. But not like this. Am I paranoid? Cynical? Or just careful?

No comments: