Friday, September 09, 2005

What would you have done?

My son started middle school this week, a perilous time even for the most socially adept kiddos. He's not that, for sure, but I thought the fact that he was in a self-contained special-ed class with as many layers of protective personnel around him as I could manage might keep him from attracting the attention of his judgmental non-special-ed peers for at least a few weeks. But no. Today, after I'd picked him up and tucked him away in the minivan and stood nearby on the sidewalk waiting to flag down his sister, I heard a knot of girls gossiping. And what they were saying was, "Did you see that boy in special-ed, always doing this?" They used my son's name, and imitated his flapping-jumping-bobbing walk. And maybe because I work in the school library and lead a book group and talk to kids there all the time, I said, "Hey, girls? That's my son you're talking about, and he's right in the car here. So shhh!" They sort of closed ranks and moved away as I added, "He's trying his best." And then proceeded to spend the rest of the time before my daughter finally found us trying to keep him from getting out of the car and putting himself back on display.

When I told my husband the story later, he said he wouldn't have talked to the girls at all -- "they're just kids." So now I'm wondering -- did I make it worse? Having a pushy mom who walks you in and out of school and chastises classmates on your behalf isn't exactly the coolest middle school accessory. Is he now going to be that weird kid with that weird mother? I'm not sure the girls were even saying anything all that mean about him, except that he was noticeable, which he certainly is. If you'd been there, and it was your kid, would you have spoken up? Blown it off? Or stood there and silently suffered?

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