Amy Silverman: The Trouble With Boys
I prepared for Sophie’s entrance to junior high like a general getting ready for war – touring schools, meeting with principals, planning the logistics of her day. I knew she’d be safe, that the adults would look out for her.
Still, I lost sleep and spent my days worrying. The school had never really experimented like this before, sticking a kid with Down syndrome in with the general population. Would Sophie make friends?
As the first semester of sixth grade is winding down, I can say with some confidence that the answer is yes. And it happened because of the boys.
After the first week of school, Sophie’s aide was reporting that a boy named Thomas in her art class waited patiently for her each afternoon, laying out her supplies for her before she arrived. At the first school dance, she was surrounded by boys. Apparently Sophie was the only girl not too shy to bust out her moves. After that, a boy named Larry started following her around.
And then there’s Sam.
Sophie has come home with exactly one invitation this year, to a Halloween party at Sam’s house. We couldn’t make it, so Sam’s mom and I emailed and arranged to meet one Saturday afternoon at Tempe Marketplace. Sophie stood patiently while I curled her hair and she asked for blue eye shadow. Sam is quiet and gentle, with spiky brown hair and glasses. They met in math class.
Armed with a cell phone and a little money, the kids ventured to the bookstore and the yogurt shop. Sam said he doesn’t really like to shop, but he was okay waiting while Sophie browsed at Claire’s.
The date ended with a hug and promises to get together again.
But a few days later, Sophie asked to speak to me “in private.”
“Sam dumped me,” she said. “I told him 'I love you' and he said, 'I don’t love you back.'”
I advised her to play hard to get.
“What does that mean?”
“Try saying 'Hi' instead of 'I love you.'”
“Okay,” she said a little sadly.
A few weeks after that, Sam’s mom emailed me wondering if the kids could get together again. We met for pizza and Sophie wore a velvet party dress, but promised to play it cool.
Sam’s mom said she knew all about the break up.
“Sam told me, 'It’s just too much pressure!'" she said.
We had a good laugh.
In the end, Sophie and Sam decided to just be friends. The other day I asked her about Larry. She smiled shyly and declined comment.
Really, I ask you, who else gets to play the field in junior high? For most of us, these are the tough years and things get easier when we grow up. I worry that for Sophie, it will be just the opposite.
But she’s enjoying herself so much, I can’t help but smile too.
Amy Silverman is managing editor of Phoenix New Times. She blogs about her daughter Sophie at GirlInAPartyHat.com.