It is May. I am rejoicing, and I am overwhelmed. For me, the month of May this year is like the oft-quoted beginning of A Tale of Two Cities: it is the best of times; it is the worst of times—at least emotionally it is.
My son is graduating from high school and I am so proud of him. Yet, my family’s experience of his senior year is not like that of so many other families with graduates. We’ve not posted pictures of college campus visits, because there have been none. We won’t be able to look through the pages of my son’s senior yearbook and see him pictured in school activities, because there aren’t any. My son is not one of the students who will receive any academic recognition at the senior awards assembly or voted for any of the categories of “most likely to….” by fellow students. My son has autism.
We’ve not been filling out college applications or discussing what living on a college campus will be like. We have spent this past year trying to decide on a program that will help our adult son with acquiring necessary daily living and job skills. Our future does not include helping our son move into a dorm and meeting college friends. The next few years of our lives will be helping our son learn to live as independently as possible. He will not be meeting with his college advisor to select which courses he needs to take. He will not meet his college sweetheart or go to college parties. Instead, he will be learning how to do laundry, and how to call for public transportation to get to a job or appointment since he does not drive. He will be learning how to make a grocery list and shop for his clothes. He will be learning how to cook and clean for himself, and learning what he needs to do if something at the house needs to be repaired.
So, while I rejoice and am happy to see my son graduate, it brings with it the reality of another life transition that is difficult when your child will probably never be able to live independently. His graduation is not a celebration of the usual progression that marks the beginning of a young person’s life away from mom and dad. So, while I celebrate his accomplishments, my heart is also heavy with the grief that comes when your child is not capable of experiencing all of the same things as others his age. My son’s graduation is another life marker that reminds me of all the things that I wish my son could experience.
If you, like me, have a child with disabilities who is graduating, know that I am praying for you and that you are not alone.