Graduation: The Tiny Elephant in the Room

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So, wow, my son is graduating. GRADUATING! I always knew he would graduate. Even though he’s faced so many challenges and mountains to climb over the years; he’s reached the summit. The air really is thin up here, because I’m having trouble breathing! I’m so excited, thrilled that he’s going to get a high school diploma. Many years ago, there was a time, a short period of time, when we weren’t sure. His scores were really low and he was having a lot of trouble with his school work. With years of fighting, arguing, scratching and clawing (and that was just with the school system!), I finally got him into a non-public program that he thrived in and he’s now making honors during his last year.

I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I get sad about the things he’s had to go through. He’s always disliked the school environment he’s been in for the past several years. The school he attends is a mixture of many different children of all abilities, so the challenge has been, in his case, to be educated among peers with a much lower set of abilities. I feel for him sometimes, as he’s missed out on a “traditional” high school education, but his cognitive abilities limit his learning and the program tailored to his needs at this amazing school is unmatched and really kept him on task and able to achieve a diploma. So, I find peace with my decision when I think about those facts.

While I am so excited for this new chapter beginning in his life, I sometimes inwardly allow myself to get a bit sad over how different his experience will be. Not a pity party, mind you, because I am wildly proud of him and happy for him. I see my friend’s children enjoying well deserved parties, semesters abroad, fantastic trips, scholarships and other great things and they are all things I will not be able to give him. So, the sad part is just me. He’s never going to get that letter in the mail paying for a year of college and, unless things change quite drastically, he’s not going to have a big graduation party with family and friends. Would he even notice the difference? Probably not. However, I guess we all wish that for our children. Because I haven’t been able to secure funding for him for the community college this year, he will have to wait a year until he can attend. I cannot afford it. It hurts that I can’t send him to school this year. I’ve tried to justify it as well, he’ll have a year to work, maybe save up some money, get “out there” a little bit and experience life. So be it.

I’ve tried to teach him to be independent as much as I can. I try to turn trips to the food store into learning experiences, times when he’s in the room while I’m paying bills into an economics lesson and any other opportunities I can fit in. I hold him responsible for chores like the dishwasher, recycling, taking out trash. He washes his own laundry and cooks his dinner (he eats a very specific list of foods and almost never what we have, but I never give up hope!) However, even as the parent of a special needs child, I HAVE to let him ‘go’ and let him experience things for himself. He’s never had a job, although he’s applied for two. I’ve tried to help him apply to very local places, but so far, no one has called. He worries about dealing with people and how to handle any unpleasant situations. He’s been taught to be polite and respectful, so I’m sure he’d ask for help if needed, but I guess the mom in me will always worry. Society is not always nice and people are sometimes very uncooperative and mean. I hope I’ve taught him well and he will learn to ask for help, get a supervisor and get through things like that successfully.

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We will enjoy this stage in his life the best way we know how…as a family. We’ll have a party, we’ll take the pictures and grin from ear to ear when we see him in his cap and gown. The blindingly expensive senior proofs will somehow turn into portraits hung on the wall. What a long and complicated journey this has been. SO many ups and down and challenges along the way. It makes me wonder how life will change, but I think it will be for the good.

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