Monday, June 13, 2011

The Road Less Taken; Bravery in the Face of Fear-The American Way

So this morning I went out to do some errands and ended up sitting in the parking lot of a supermarket for 15 minutes crying my eyes out. I had been thinking about the events coming up this week and instead of being overjoyed and excited I became unbelievably sad. So sad in fact that I could not even leave my car. I have absolutely no idea what happened to me.  One minute I am thinking how HSB’s last day of high school is tomorrow and the next thing you know I am balling like a baby. I know I did not feel this way when collegeman graduated. In fact I was nervous and anxious about college for him but not sad or melancholy by any means.

One of the errands I needed to do this morning was to drop off a bottle of sparkling wine as a present for the Vice Principal who was so supportive of HSB over the years. I mentioned it to her in passing how sad I was. She reassured me that it is very normal. She hears it a lot and even remembered when her youngest left high school and how sad she also felt. Glad to know I am not alone. But I wonder, do these mothers of typical children and we mothers of special needs children cry for the same reasons?

In the back of my mind I know what I was thinking and why I started to cry. It is a passing of a milestone for HSB as it was for collegeman. For collegeman it was even a larger step because when he was first diagnosed no one, and I mean no one, thought this child might even talk, never mind graduate from high school and have a successful college career either. But that never was the issue with HSB. Oh, he has had his issues, as I have documented on this blog. But nothing that would have ever made anyone say, he never could accomplish any goal he set out for himself. It was more of the idea he just needs a little more growth and maturity and he can then get his act together. Which by the way he has done through leaps and bounds this year.

I was not sure what to truly make of my self-indulgent crying.  For many mothers when their baby leaves the nest they feel empty without purpose. My baby as with his older brother is not going anywhere. He will live at home and attend the same college that his brother attends. It’s a great school. It is a traditional liberal arts college that emphasizes, writing, analysis and thought. Yes, as with most colleges it is decidedly on the liberal-political side of the aisle, but I think HSB may be able to weather it. Or at least the college may be able to weather HSB. I definitely think they will challenge each other. Oh I doubt any of the professors will change their minds, and I am certain HSB will never give up his purview of the world. Stubbornness runs in the family. But it will be a good experience for him and a growing experience as it has been for collegeman. So I am actually looking forward to transitioning him into the next phase of his life. (As with everything, I do not think that there will not be issues to tackle, but having been through it with collegeman I do feel more prepared going in with HSB. Of course I also know that there will be new and different challenges ahead since collegeman and HSB are completely different people. )

No, I am not worried about the loss of control of my children. As I said they will live at home and the college has allowed me to put support in the classrooms with him. So in the beginning with HSB at least I will have some idea of what is going on. (How long the para will last with HSB will be decided after a semester review with the disability director.) Honestly it is a good balance I think. They are on their own in a college setting but secure at home in case there are any problems that arise out of their decision-making. HSB will start with the life skills coach like collegeman did at this time and also learn to be more independent in society. Of course there is also the driving issue. HSB has been slowly learning to drive. That without a doubt is an independence lesson I can wait for, for years to come. But it too is rearing its ugly head and is not too far in the future.

I think in many respects I do not have the same separation issues that a lot of parents have when their baby graduates from high school. It’s that aspergean in between stage that our children go through. While they have that intellect that propels them forward they do still need the time to mature a little longer than their peers. HSB does not have any need to live at school, not yet any way. If the issue comes up then we will address it at the time. There will be all kinds of factors to consider and the largest of course would be-how is he adjusting to college academically and how independent is he when it comes to life in general. At present if there were a question there would be a resounding “no,” so luckily it is not even a thought in his head. I know its not even something he contemplates because I asked him. He is also not shy and has no problem hurting my feelings, so if he wanted to live away he would most assuredly tell his father and me.

So what was it then? What was getting to me? The more I thought about it, the more I came up with only one reason. I always tell people that when dealing with children with special needs that they have to prepare for the day when there is no support except what you can provide on your own. Even when collegeman graduated at least there was the school providing the support during the school day for HSB. I had people I could call if there were problems and people who truly knew HSB, who he was and what he was all about. While collegeman depended only upon us to help him through the world (and whatever village I could muster for him), at least there was a ready-made village for HSB in his little world that I could count on to be there for him besides us. As of graduation that will be no more.

I realized that I suddenly became very frightened and felt very alone. I know that hubby and I will do for HSB everything we did for collegeman. That is not even an issue. I realized that the village that supports him will dissolve and that if a new one is created it will be our doing and our doing alone. No one, nowhere is responsible, morally or legally, to care about what happens to HSB other than us. If we can’t afford certain supports for either of the boys because of a downturn in the economy, which means they can’t attend school, no one will care. If they are left to flounder, as so many adult aspergeans are disregarded and unsupported by society, no one will care.

So I became frightened. I became terrified. I started to have heart palpitations. I needed to grab ahold of my own tuchas and get a grip. I suppose if things had not been so topsy-turvy in the world over the past few years I would not be so frightened about the future. But they were and I am. Believe me, I will survive. I will get over myself and do what needs to be done. But it doesn’t mean my fears and nightmares are not real nor unfounded. I felt suddenly as I did when the boys were little and we had just moved to the town; alone with two disabled children (even though HSB’s disability had not been diagnosed just yet), with no friends and no support, snowed into a rental without an idea of what to do next. I felt like that young mother who knew she was in for the fight of her life and needed to figure out just how to get it done.

Someone once asked me what would I have done different when the boys were little. I replied I would have been braver earlier in the fight. I suddenly remembered that as I sat in my car, outside the supermarket.  I vowed to take my own advice. I decided it was time to be braver now. It is fine to be frightened at crossroads I think. It is fine to feel that you are even at a loss when faced with crossroads. But what is not fine is to not pick yourself up, not dust yourself off and get going on the business at hand. Sorry but to wallow in self-pity is so totally just un-American.

OK, so where did I get this idea? You see we had just finished watching a wonderful documentary about the history of the United States over Memorial Day weekend. It is called America:The Story of US. The documentary honored the wonderful exceptionalism of the people that created this nation; the drive; the stick-to-itiveness; the relentless pursuit of a goal. That goal is the right to be anything you want to be and that NO ONE has the right to stand in your way (yes yes yes, as long as you are within the law…) So the drive that made this nation the greatest and freest nation in human history, I think is in our genetic makeup. We American descendants of those that came in the hulls of ships (chained or unchained), those that come in shipping containers today or cross deserts on foot, all have one particular thing in common…. we come from sterner stuff. We come from survivors. We come from some of the most stubborn people to have ever lived in the history of the world. Some call it hubris. I call it bravery. For above all else these people faced the complete unknown and met it head on. Much in the same way our children meet the unknown in life head on and face it bravely. (They are our heroes.) We, parents of special needs children and young adults, have it in ourselves to be brave too. Brave beyond our wildest dreams as a matter of fact.

So yes, mothers of highschool graduates do cry especially when their youngest graduates and leaves the nest. It was not why I was crying though. Sometimes you do get overwhelmed when you think of how far your children still have to go. But then I look back and realize how far they have come and I know we will make sure that they reach their final destination. As with those that built this nation, our children and we along with them, travel the road less taken, but that road will be taken nonetheless, and taken successfully I might add.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
    ---Robert Frost (1916)

By the way as of next week I will have collegeman 1 and collegeman 2. How does CM1 and CM2 strike everyone as monikers?