Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The King of the Halloween Party

I'm off to Tree Hugger University.
You might say that Velvet needs an intervention - at least that's what Buzz Kill thinks.

The last few weeks have been tricky as far as Velvet has been concerned. I'm not exactly worried, but I have some work to do, and I'm fixing to head out to the hinterlands to do it. Buzz Kill, on the other hand, is fraught with anxiety which makes him so completely unpleasant that he's not invited.

The issue is Velvet's grades if you can call them that.
He has a D in Calculus. Velvet never got a D before.
Velvet has never been King of the Halloween Party before either.
In my view, the two are inextricably intertwined.

There are a number of factors involved. When Buzz Kill and I were up there for freshman orientation, the three of us met with the boss of the Office of Disability Services at Big, Beautiful Private University. Tree Hugger University, a SUNY school, is integrated into BBP's campus so that they share a lot of stuff like dorms and dining halls. libraries and student services. The young science and math majors up the hill at Tree Hugger take all their liberal arts and language classes at BBP. We had to make sure that the BBP office had all the documentation outlining Velvet's accommodations - such as extra time on tests, a distraction free environment for testing, note taking services, an audio version of his text books on CD as well as individual tutoring. BBP takes care of most of them, but the tutoring comes through Tree Hugger. Since the beginning of school, Velvet has been supposed to set up this tutoring.

Most likely, Velvet is unhappy about being a SPED - a special ed kid - and just wants to be like everyone else. It is not unusual for kids, particularly 18 year old boys, to get to college and act like their issues have magically vanished. He has never been good at admitting he needs help which means he absolutely doesn't know how to ask for help either.

Meanwhile, Velvet was spotted at a party by the daughter of one of Buzz Kill's friends. As it happens, Buzz Kill has an old, dear friend who is married to a woman that teaches English at BBP. This couple - who was at our wedding - have a daughter who is a month older than Velvet. She's not at college this semester due to their own personal family drama which is why she happened to see Velvet at a party the other night. In response to questioning from her mother, the girl said that Velvet seemed very energetic at the party. When Buzz Kill heard that, he concluded that Velvet was taking extra Ritalin.

That's when Buzz Kill called me in an enraged panic, reporting that Velvet said he hated me and wanted to go the school far, far away from us because we were up his ass all the time. I'm pretty sure he told me about the D in Calculus during the same conversation. I was pretty pissed off about the D, but told Buzz Kill that the extra Ritalin idea was about the dumbest thing I ever heard. I suggested we needed to be looking at something infinitely more mind altering than Ritalin, but Buzz Kill wouldn't hear of such a thing.

I understand about Velvet's issues in every way a good mother can. I'll be taking the blame for those issues for the rest of his life, after all. We all know that if it's not one thing, it's your mother - although in my view, it's preferable to blame everything on Buzz Kill.

Put the LD/Sped stuff together with being exceedingly annoyed at his father's aggressive, attacking whine, and Velvet stopped picking up his phone.

After a few attempts, I got a hold of Velvet who said, first of all, that he never said he hated me. He said he hated US for being up his ass all the time and he felt like going to school out of state. I pointed out that Velvet is the one who couldn't find three minutes in the last two weeks to email the program coordinator at the Academic Success Center. I hadn't talked to him for more than 15 minutes during the month of October and had sent money and cookies. If he wanted to see "up his ass" wait until he's flunked out of school and has to live with Mudgie in Texas because I'm so pissed he's not safe in this apartment. He said I didn't understand and hung up the phone - although he said "good bye" first. Then I called back and left a voicemail saying he couldn't get into the University of Afghanistan with his grades, so he better think about his transfer options while he was doing everything else in the world except arranging for tutoring.

Then I proceeded to call every ten minutes for a while, but Velvet wouldn't pick up his phone. Since it was clear that Velvet wasn't going to talk to me but that he needed to talk to somebody, I left a message for his shrink. Velvet has been seeing Mr. Laidback since the evaluation he had in eight grade indicated that we needed to address his anxiety. Velvet has always felt comfortable with Mr. Laidback because Mr. Laidback is familiar with Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp. Velvet has always said that he felt most able to be himself at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp, and Velvet felt Understood by Mr. Laidback.

I figured that if Velvet wasn't going to talk to me, he could talk to Mr. Laidback. Buzz Kill approved this plan which is good since he has to pay Velvet's therapy bills. Mr. Laidback was concerned when I told him what was going on. I left a message for Velvet saying Mr. Laidback was going to call and that I wanted him to have a phone session. The next day, I called Velvet to say Happy Halloween. He answered the phone and agreed to my request. They'll be talking this afternoon while I'm driving up to Tree Hugger U.

While I was relieved that Mr. Laidback and Velvet would be talking, I decided over the weekend to take Friday off for the specific purpose of dragging Velvet into meetings with both the program coordinator and the senior counselor at the Academic Success Center. Velvet had spoken the the senior counselor back at the beginning of October, roughly one month after he was supposed to talk to her. He was miffed because when he called, she didn't know who he was.

Eighteen year old Male Ego? Typical reaction of a kid who went to a school with a total enrollment of 250 students, K - 12? Since second grade Velvet has had almost exactly the same 36 kids in the grade which was broken into 12 kids per class who were broken into smaller groups for classes like Math.

When I called Velvet on Monday night to say I would be there on Friday for these two appointments, he was prepared to give me an attitude and wanted to know why I was coming up there. When I told him that I felt sorry for him and was coming to help, he was surprised. Buzz Kill had told him I was furious and coming up there to kick his ass. Actually, Buzz Kill wasn't altogether wrong. I was furious at Velvet's lack of initiative in the tutor department compared to the superior motivation he showed at finding parties. He particular enjoys the parties at the fraternity with a six foot bong.

I knew something like this was going to happen last year when somebody left a drunk girl in the bathroom (Stonerdate 08.20.08).

When I told Velvet that his father had heard through the friend's daughter that he seemed very energetic at one of these parties which convinced his father that he was taking extra Ritalin, Velvet and I both had to sigh over the obtuseness of Buzz Kill. Then Velvet said, "I was rolling on ______ and it's the best drug ever! I was King of the Halloween Party!"

He danced around with glowsticks all night and says everyone wanted to dance with him. Maybe it will wind up on youtube.

I'm not particularly worried about this incident because it's not as bad as all that. The guys I hung out with did worse and most of them graduated, got jobs and became responsible members of society. We didn't have youtube in those days, but hopefully the child was masked since it was Halloween. Now that I think about it, me and the Man from San Antone hosted similar parties years ago in the Austin, Texas of myth and legend.

It was as a result of those parties that I could impart this wisdom to Velvet:

When you're at a party
and you're tripping,
and the police come to the door,
let somebody else open the door.

Happily, when Velvet was in Kindergarten, I had the foresight to take him over to our local precinct and asked the desk sargent to show him where the guys had to sit when they didn't listen to their mother. She was a little, round Latina and embraced my request with enthusiasm and vigor. She even took him into the holding cell so he could get a whiff of that industrial strength disinfectant. People thought I was crazy at the time and that giving my kid an individual tour of the precinct bordered on abuse. It did scare the living shit out of him so thoroughly that he remembers it to this day which is why I maintain that it was brilliant.


intelliwench said...

Hey, at least you're in the information loop. Think how many parents don't have a friggin' clue as to what their kids are up to at college!

Good luck with everything!

Gail said...


I agree, the 'information loop' is good. And the fact that you are going to "help" is good too - although, I would tread lightly or the 'information loop' will close down. It is a fine line between helping and controlling. ANd the older our kids get us Moms have to lean towards helping - and at times that is even rejected. It is just the way it is. sigh......

Love to you

p.s. travel safely

PENolan said...

Yes, overall it's a good thing - and I can tell from talking to him all this week that he's glad I'm coming.

I'm happy to say that I've never been a controlling individual. I try to be an emotionally responsive authority. I blow my stack like every parent from time to time but I'm lucky to be able to put on my professional hat to analyze situations from a developmental perspective. The trick is remembering that he may be 18 but that is still an adolescent. And in many ways 18 year old adolescents are similar to two and three year olds going through the fist bout of individuation.

I'm off!

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

I count myself LUCKY that all my learning disabilities were always attributed to my unwillingness to live up to my great potential.

A personal failing can handle. I know I NEVER had any "ambition."

But to have it be a "disease"? That'd be harder to bear, I should think.

PENolan said...

He's definitely suffering a bit from feeling like everyone else is smarter. Fortunately, the staff here at Tree Hugger U is great. The Senior Counselor just said they consider themselves very Hippilicious.

I expect we're having our first experience with a mainstream "chalk and talk" math teacher.

Velvet also says he doesn't think he's cut out to be an engineer. He thinks he should be a DJ for raves . . .

hipparchia said...

Velvet also says he doesn't think he's cut out to be an engineer. He thinks he should be a DJ for raves

velvet might actually be onto something. i've got 2 science degrees, but my bartender friends make twice what i do.

Liberality said...

I think the best thing is that you both listen to each other instead of just talking "at" each other.

You are right about the adolescent thing. There's a lot of research about this topic if you needed to google it.

My daughter has learning disabilities and she hated feeling different from the other kids in her class/group as she was growing up. She suffered from self esteem issues as well and I sent her to therapy but it didn't seem to work out as well as I'd have liked it to. We had "mother/daughter" issues that could not be resolved for awhile and she made some bad choices for herself at that time.

Comrade Kevin said...

My college experience was very different. I doubt it can be qualified as the typical freshman experience, considering I was still pretty fragile at the time from what had been a three month hospitalization during the later half of my senior year of high school. As a result, I enrolled a quarter late and started classes right after the first of the new year.

Part of it too was that where I attended was still very much a commuter school, urban campus, whereby the Greek presence was almost nonexistent, and since few students lived on school grounds due to the deplorable state of the dorms, there were almost no parties in the immediate vicinity.

I had been known to party in high school, though my own recklessness was purely a result of not really caring whether I lived or died. My freshman year of college I had just enough energy to attend classes, do my homework, and write my papers before I came home to collapse into bed. I was still pretty fragile at the time and I think it's best I simply didn't have the energy to make friends who threw wild parties.

My grades were pretty good for the most part during undergrad, though I for a time was in the company of people who partook in a variety of illegal substances. Since so much of my identity was tied up into being a high achiever and a maker of good grades, I never let my GPA slip into dangerous territory. I think part of my desire to get a BA was to prove wrong the people who assumed I'd never be well enough to make it to graduation. And though it wasn't easy, and though I had to drop three full terms to be hospitalized, I did manage it. I think of my degree more as a purple heart than as some means to an end.

PENolan said...

hipparchia - cool blogs you've got there.
Liberality, I always learn from your experiences. Kevin - I'm glad you're here to share the tale.

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