Love is funny stuff.
Max, my fabulous 16-year-old son who has autism and epilepsy has been in love with his gorgeous Italian girlfriend for 2 years now. They met at school in the Cabin, an SEN supported section of their mainstream school in Cambridge.
Last year however, I had a horrid phone call from the school when they found out that Max and his girlfriend were having sleepovers at each other’s houses.
”…serious safeguarding issues Ms. Marek...”.
It sparked an equally serious response from me and the girl’s mum, I probably over reacted but their relationship is amazingly innocent. You see, they are both a lot younger than their years and haven’t even kissed yet. It is a relationship based on hand holding, declarations of undying love and lots of cute presents. I explained this to the school forcibly enough to get an unreserved apology. BUT they probably will kiss one day, they might even do more! Then what? How can a parent protect and support a relationship between two SEN young people? Is it even any of our business? There are after all, big conversations to have…big emotions, birth control…augh! Not yet though. I shall try to pop this terrifying thought in Pandora’s box just to the left of ‘hope’.
In September, the young love birds had to say goodbye to each other as Max left to go to college in Shropshire to do catering. An amazing college but a good 3 hours away from his girlfriend in Cambridge. Max has been so worried she’ll find someone else…. especially if that someone else turned out to be Max’s best friend who is still as school with her and a really nice chap to boot!
So here is my problem, we all hope our children grow up and find love. I don’t know about you but the thing that keeps me awake at night is the idea that my beautiful boy will become isolated. The idea of Max being alone, not hanging out with friends, not blushing when he asks out a girl, not holding sweaty hands on a date or having his first kiss.
I’m terrified of Max breaking up with his Italian girlfriend. The idea of him feeling heartbreak for the first time makes me feel physically sick. He’s been through enough challenges to be fair. All the medical stuff, struggling at school and making friends. I want to protect him from any more pain. Ridiculous I know. Love and heartbreak are normal and important parts of growing up and once again, this pain isn’t something I can shield Max from and that kills me.
Ironically, for my other son I want him to date lots, to have the great adventure that is love and heartbreak over and over again. I’m struggling with the inequality I’m feeling between the way I treat my two boys. After all, if my other son were to fall in love with a girl he meets at school and never dates anyone else at all I would be seriously worried.
Should I be worried about Max? Am I doing wrong to see them differently?
Last week I saw something beautiful. Max met up with his girlfriend for the first time in ages when he was back for half term. He brought her a dozen red roses. She melted, it was glorious…but her mum and I got thoroughly tearful. The young love birds held hands and coyly walked to the cinema with us mums following at a respectable distance. For now, I’ll try not to worry and remember the way they looked at each other walking in front of us. So delicate and tender. A true gentle innocence. It was enough to take your breath away.