My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Friday, September 30, 2011

Freak-out Friday

I put a little cinnamon in my coffee this morning and it's really, really good.

Our next door neighbors left for Columbia yesterday but unfortunately, they left behind a mess. It's a royal pain moving out... I know it's always been something super difficult for me to wrap up... which is why the fire was a blessing in disguise for us. The restoration people had to handle that move out process. Austin said that their church was supposed to take what was left. I am pretty sure the church was to take the furniture, not clean carpets, pick up trash left behind, etc.

One thing they left behind is a cozy ottoman and Stubby is delighted to have a new comfy perch beside me. He was using my IKEA step stool which was hard wood. Stubby seems to be out of sorts lately. Old age.

I bought a long, thin table to go under my window and padded it with blankets for a huge window perch. Trouble loves it but Stubby hasn't bothered with it.  Life around here is all about the cats.

Well, not entirely. I went with Austin to the college fair at his school yesterday. It was... um... well, I'll just say this: It was nearly impossible for me to imagine going to college when I was his age. I just didn't have the resources. Jim did it but it was a real struggle for him. Bryan did it and it was also a struggle for him (financially, never academically). By the time it was time for me to get serious about college, I was pregnant. So that was that. In retrospect... I could have done it... but at the time my focus turned to supporting my family... and it's been that way for 25 years now.

For Austin... I want him to see the sky as his limit. I want him to know that whatever he commits to do, I will support him. The problem is that his grade point average is "barely passing". His handwriting is still, as a senior, so poor that he couldn't even fill out the contact cards for colleges he was interested in so I had to. His ability to  prioritize time to be able to work independently as a college student just isn't there. He still, as a senior, has to have a study skills class to be able to complete his classwork.

He is big on ideas and lax on follow thru. He doesn't understand socially acceptable behavior... he dressed for the Probe Fair - to meet college reps - in plaid pajama pants, a striped shirts and flipflops. He thinks taking the SAT is free. He didn't really understand how to explain what he wants to do... he thinks he has to get a "large animal" degree and then go back to get a "small animal" degree. He couldn't pass chemistry but thinks he can pass the undergraduate work necessary to get into a good Veterinarian program.

And I don't want to reign in his dreams.... but I am tasked with the responsibility of helping this young person become a contributing member of society. I kept pushing him toward the technical school reps... I kept suggesting that he get certified as a vet tech and then start working in a vet office and make sure he likes it. He doesn't have the small motor skills necessary to write his name legibly. How would he have the skills necessary to provide delicate procedures on animals? How will I ever know if he's turning in his assignments? How many semesters of schooling would we pay for him to act the way he's acted in high school... not understanding that it's mandatory - not optional - to turn in his work.

And that's if there was any give in my budget AT ALL for school. One cute little sorority girl turned admissions rep cheerfully offered the information that they have such great scholarships available that the average parents contribution is only $10,000 a year. I nodded and smiled and said, "well, isn't that nice?" I wouldn't be able to squeeze an extra $100 out of my budget, especially once child support stops. His dad surely isn't going to pay for college.

Austin is frustrated because everyone keeps trying to steer him away from what he wants to do. I want him to dream big. But I also know that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. He does what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, whether it's school work or chores or whatever. He doesn't understand the huge commitment involved in getting a college degree.

Raising 3 year old Austin meant staying up all night because he did. It meant taking him into the bathroom with me because otherwise he could destroy the house in the time it took me to go. It meant Poop Picasso works in his crib. On the sofa. On the carpet. It meant never having any time for myself. It meant apologizing to other parents when he bit their child. It meant losing friends because people didn't want their kids around him. It meant dirt everywhere. It meant not being able to leave him in the church nursery and not being able to get him to behave well enough to take him in church with me. It meant feeling very isolated and overwhelmed when his dad didn't help with him. It meant separating fights between him and his brothers when he tore their stuff up. It meant worrying that he was going to starve to death on his constant diet of grapes and yogurt. It meant negotiating in such a careful way that we never varied at all from his routine and apologizing to everyone else in our lives because we had to.

This. Is. Harder. He wants to be an adult and he wants to be independent and he wants his own money and his own options and he wants to do what he wants to do and the hard reality is that even for people who have everything going for them: two parent households, college funds, great grades - and no autism - even for them, this time of life is difficult. That transition to having your first car (how can I let him drive?) and your first job (can I explain to his employer that he has autism? would he offend a customer?) Can I trust him to be responsible with money? How can I make sure he's not making the wrong kind of friends again?

It's a fine line between a reality check and crushing someone's dreams. I can't be the person who crushes my child's dreams but I don't want him to get hurt either.

This weekend he's helping around the neighborhood putting up gutters or cleaning out gutters or... I'm not sure exactly. That's the kind of skills I want him to learn... how to do stuff...

Anyways... it's Friday! Yay! Hope you have a great day and an Awesome weekend. Go Gators!


Laurie said...

Austin might want to consider a Certified Vet Tech degree first....its a two year degree and would be a great trial/stepping stone to being a vet. There are tons of loans and grants out there - my 18 year is going to a traditional 4 year college and living on campus and we made it happen with loans and some help from me. Good luck - its tough!

EJAY said...

oh, when if do the FAFSA, I laughor else I would cry!! there is no way my family can eek out that 11,000 they say we can afford to pay. We are one of those families that when we do manage to save any money it usually goes to fixing broken cars, dryers or washers.
I once jokingly told my husband I would allow him to have an affair if she was rich and could give all of us the things we wouldlike to have. Now that I have a kid in college ( going to a community college where she will be able to afford paying back loans) I am now so sure I was joking when I said that!