Nov 14, 2011 0 Share

I'm Your Mom. Have We Met?

Illustration of man presenting slide with pie chart.

Cameron is a source of unending surprises. I am constantly surprised by his ability to answer the most open ended questions imaginable with a one word answer. To say that making conversation with Cameron is a challenge is like saying … well, it’s like saying good metaphors come easy to me.

But you know what? Cameron can hold his own in a conversation! I’ve seen him do it. He just does it for other people, and not his dear old mom. Huh. Go figure. And here I thought I was very pleasant to talk to.

Cameron is participating in a leadership program sponsored by Special Olympics and the Gallup organization. The purpose of this program is for students (or athletes, as they’re referred to by Special Olympics) to learn their strengths, and capitalize on those strengths by putting them to good use. Each student/athlete is paired with a Gallup professional as a mentor, and over the course of seven monthly meetings, they work together to identify and develop the athlete’s three core strengths. The culmination is a presentation in front of a sizable audience where the athlete explains what their strengths are and how those strengths define who they are. It’s such a great opportunity.

I attended the first meeting with Cameron this week, so that I could make sure he knew the route next month when he goes on his own. (Ahem … I got us off at the wrong stop. Cameron would never have made that mistake, but I digress.) The first part of the meeting was eating pizza, so Cameron had that one down, no problem. The second part of the meeting was introducing yourself to the group by including something about what you like. I sat on the other side of the room dreading Cameron’s turn. I knew he would say something like, “I’m Cameron” and wait for further prompting. I was tempted to text a script to him, but his mentor was right next to him, so I knew I’d get busted. When it was Cameron’s turn, I couldn’t believe my ears. A whole entire PARAGRAPH came flowing from his mouth. He stated his first, middle and last name, and explained that through his school he had an internship at a pizza restaurant. He went on to explain his lifelong dream of owning a pizza restaurant and that he hoped by participating in this program he would be better prepared to be a business owner. It took every ounce of restraint I had to not jump up and do big “Woot! Woot!” in the middle of the conference room. Of course, to everyone else in the room, this introduction of Cameron’s was no big feat, because everyone else was doing the same type of introduction. But they don’t know Cameron like I do.

This was not the first time I was caught off guard by Cameron’s communication skills. The Smithsonian summer camp he attended required an interview as part of the application process. Again, I was a nervous wreck over the event. One of the people interviewing Cameron had a service dog, and I was sure this would distract him, and he might even make an inappropriate comment. Surprise Number One that day was that he didn’t even seem to notice the dog in the room. Surprise Number Two was when he started answering questions about himself. Again, he spoke in paragraphs, and not one-word answers. At one point, he looked at me and asked, “Did I say something wrong?” I guess I had this look of shock on my face, and he didn’t quite know what to make of it.

I’m left wondering what else lies beneath the surface of my darling son. I’ve said “they don’t know Cameron like I do,” but do I know Cameron like they do? I think this becomes the challenge most parents face. How do our kids act when we’re not around? Do we give them enough opportunity for being as independent as they can be? Are we subconsciously prompting for behaviors that don’t happen unless we’re around to unknowingly prompt for them? I’m happy to say that so far, all my surprises with regard to Cameron have been pleasant. I hope they stay that way.