Prom-posals for Kids with Special Needs

I'll Skip the Pity Date

Do not hate me for this one, guys.

It would seem that "Prom-posals" are the new thing. It's when one teen asks another to prom but makes it an event. Balloon bouquets, flash-mobs, celeb cameos, flower arrangements — some of these put my actual marriage proposal to shame, much less my awkward heywannagotoprom conversation I had with the guy I was dating my senior year.

It just occurred to me that I should dig up one of my prom pictures. {shudder}

Anyway, back to proms. These extravagant invites have become the stuff of YouTube videos everywhere and, even thought I think the way these have become over-the-top is kind of insane, I'm totally along for the ride. Roses in math class? A flock of minstrels from the glee club to serenade a prom hopeful? I will watch the heck out of that. I think the romanticism is sweet.

At some point, I start to think about PJ as a prom-goer. Right now, while he's in kindergarten, it's hard to know if that's in the cards for him. I have certainly pictured him a thousand times: He'll be taller than me and blonde, wearing a tux with a bow tie that matches his date's dress (do people still do that?). He'll offer her a corsage that he picked out, and I'll take eleventy-billion pictures. For now, though, PJ is a six-year-old boy with autism, and the prom seems farther away than just the 10 more years he needs to age.

Lately, the prom-posal videos have expanded, and I see the headlines as they go viral: "Track Standout Asks Special-Needs Boy To Prom"; "Teen Surprises Special-Needs Student With Promposal." They are as sweet as the others, with the asker going all out to make the moment one to remember. There are parts of this that I love. I love that these teens want to make sure that their special-needs classmates are included in this dressy right-of-passage, and I love that they go above and beyond to make sure that the asking is something they will never forget. There have been a few of these videos that have brought me to tears.

Still, as the mother of a child with special needs, I am not sure about how I feel about this. When I picture PJ going to the prom, in his tux and matching bow tie, I think about who his date will be. Maybe it will be a friend. Maybe it will be the girl (or boy, who knows!) with whom he's had his first kiss. Maybe he won't be interested in prom.

When and if he does go, and no matter what his "labels" are at the time, I want PJ to go to prom with someone who values him. I want his prom experience to be with someone who feels that he is worth their time as an equal. I don't know that I want someone to ask him just because nobody else will. I don't want PJ to be somebody's good deed. I don't want a future headline to say "Teen Standout Asks Special Needs Boy To Prom." PJ is already a standout.

I talked to my husband about this, and he thought I was being a bit unreasonable. He felt that I wasn't being fair to the teens doing the asking. I get what he was saying, and I don't think that these kids are being anything but selfless and generous. I love that they are making sure that the prom experience is one that is inclusive of all of their classmates. I love that they are reaching out to a student who may not have the chance to be on the receiving end of a flashy prom-posal.

I just don't know that I want my son to be a pity date.

I know I sound like an ass. And truthfully, I just want PJ to be happy. If the hot girl at school offering him a prom-posal makes him happy some day, then that's amazing. Perhaps PJ and this girl are truly friends or are truly attracted to each other. And perhaps none of that will even matter to PJ. It's too far away to tell. But I read one of the many pieces about just such a scenario, a cute young cheerleader asking a boy with autism to the prom. She talked about how she had already been to two proms, about how she wasn't just going to half-ass the experience for him, and how she was going to make him look good. I read that and it just didn't taste right.

Mind you, this is coming from someone who did not care at all about prom when I was in high school. I went with a guy I was casually dating, and my mother had to threaten me until I finally agreed to wear heels with my dress. If that type of attitude is hereditary, then this thinking may be for naught. But if it's not — if the prom means something to PJ someday — then I hope it means more to his date than pity.

Take me for what I am!
Who I was meant to be!
 
And if you give a damn,
Take me baby, Or leave me!
~"Take Me Or Leave Me" from Rent, Original Broadway Soundtrack~

 

Brie Latini is a South Jersey writer and mom. This post is adapted from her blog ( . . . a breezy life).

Categories: MomSpeak