Fall Fail

I dislike this time of year.  It’s not because summer is waning and, here in the Midwest at least, leaves are starting to fall from the trees. It’s not because summer hours at work are drawing to a close (not that I have much opportunity to use them anyway). It’s because I feel like such a beast being resentful of all of the pictures of my friends’ children going off to college.

It’s petty, I know.  But it’s a reminder of what will never happen for Tim, and it starts the cavalcade of mourn for what Tim will likely never be able to experience:

  • College
  • Marriage
  • Kids
  • Career
  • Independence
Tim “graduated” from high school in June. He could have gone to his life skills program another year, but frankly, there wasn’t much else they could teach him about taking the bus and grocery shopping.  It felt like we were warehousing him six hours a day.  Sure, Tom liked the break of not having his shadow with him all the time, but it was getting harder and harder to justify why  he had to go, particularly on those mornings when he really didn’t want to. So he got his certificate of completion in the mail, I ordered a graduation tassel for him on Amazon, and with no pomp or ceremony, his education was complete.
There’s no supportive housing available for Tim in the entire state of Illinois, so instead of shopping for what he will need for his dorm room, we are redecorating his bedroom, with the caveat that money won’t be spent until he can be “grown up” and prove he can keep it neat.  It’s taken all summer, but he’s finally doing fairly well in that department, so we’ve been scouring Craigslist for some furniture and pinning pictures of what he likes on Pinterest.
Instead of buying books, we are looking for animal shelters and dog kennels that will let Tim volunteer a few hours a week so he has a “job”.  I’ve written to several doggy daycare places in our area, and none have responded.  Most rescues don’t have a shelter so there’s no where for him to go to volunteer.  Even our county animal control doesn’t have a kennel.  So, for now, he’s helping his dad with yard work and chores around the house.
The good news is I found out that Tim is eligible for a card from the State that gives him free rides on all mass transit in our area.  So we’re not looking for a car that is reliable enough to take him around campus. Instead we’re applying for free ride passes from the CTA and Metra. He takes the train, by himself now, every few weeks down to the city to visit a friend he made at his life skills program.
My friends’ posts reek of the joy and promise of their children’s bright futures.  I can’t even give my son find a viable reason to get out of bed in the morning.  But I refuse to believe this is all there is for him.  Once my pity party is over, I will re channel my jealousy into finding a way for Tim to share his passion for art, animals, and music with the world in a way that enriches his life as well as those with whom he interacts.
But for right now, please bear with my frown when you share your precious photograph.

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  • Alana Waters-Piper August 26, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I wish I had answers or ideas. I love you guys.

  • Nicole Lee August 29, 2015 at 1:49 am

    I relate to this post so much. I had to refrain from crying as I read about the jealously and sadness you feel because I know exactly where you're coming from. My family member has a mental illness.

  • Giulia October 1, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I can empathize with your feeling jealous as a parent about friends' children.

    However, what struck me when reading you is the "career, kids, independence".
    Kids, and parenting in general, is far from mandatory.
    I am a SN myself (brain injury at birth) and there is no way I conceive having kids. Whatever the reasons for not wanting kids, or not being able to have, this aspect is absolutely not a must to have or life is unworthy to live.
    Maybe my decision would had been very different had my health would had been different. I clearly don't know.
    However, thinking that "parenting is mandatory for a happy and fulfilling life" is following blindly the lifescript.

    OTOH, some people decide to be stay-at-home parents. Are they independent economically speaking ? No.

    Do your friends' children are happy to be at college ? Maybe yes, maybe no.
    Currently, they are doing well. But there is no guarantee against a significant event : car accident, a bad divorce, themselves dealing with a child with severe issues….
    Their graduation right now doesn't mean much for their future life. OTOH, right now, Tom won't go to college like your friends' children, but that doesn't mean he won't live a happy and fulfilling life either.

    FWIW, the most important is helping Tom what makes him happy. Period.
    Be in a sheltered work, be in a specialized home, be in family…. Whatever "way for Tim to share his passion for art, animals, and music with the world in a way that enriches his life as well as those with whom he interacts" as you say is the answer.

    My short life experience is having met one of my parents' friend child who was a straight A student, playing cello to become a musician at conservatory every afternoon, then studying medicine. All great on the paper.
    But she was a party animal experimenting illegal drugs, had to repeat her 3rd year, has switched from psychiatry to paediatrics and her relationships with her parents were strained the last time I've heard about her.
    Comparing to her, my not extraordinary grades, my difficulties with relationships and my oddness, I was made somewhat inferior against their elitism.
    Looking back, that girl perfect on paper, fulfilling all expectations at the expected benchmarks, is not immune against the ugly of life.

    While Tim doesn't fulfil the expectations at expected benchmarks, his life is still very valuable.
    Following the lifescript doesn't guarantee happiness and fulfilling life, no matter what Think-They-Know-It-All spout from their high horse !
    Tim doesn't follow the lifescript. So ?
    It's ok not to follow the lifescript as long as you don't harm anyone.
    If everyone followed blindly the lifescript, we wouldn't have had scientists, communities like L'Arche (communities for people with ID funded by Jean Vanier, a Canadian priest in 1974 after he took two men with ID from a French asylum and bought a house to live with them at Trosly), we wouldn't have had computers, medicines, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela… The world would had been so static it'd had been such a bore to live !!

    Tim will contribute to this world in his very own way.

  • Anonymous October 16, 2015 at 1:15 am

    My son is only 10, so I have not reached the graduation stage yet, but I very much empathize with this post.

    My friends are constantly posting things on facebook about their kiddos getting "good citizenship" awards and that sort of thing. I'm happy for them. I am.

    It's just…well my son has never brought home anything other than a "bad news bear". He wants so badly, so badly to make friends and to interact with the world, but everyone he tries to embrace pushes him away because of his manic behaviors.

    Just once, I'd like some ray of hope and not another "bad news bear".

  • Anonymous November 11, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    My daughter is struggling but in 4th grade. I believe she is onset schizophrenia. She S on antipsychotic meds that dull her. She doesn't keep up with the other kids, but she is funny, and she is my "best" friend. Since others are afraid of her aggressive spirit, I tell her secrets, and we bond in talking about how some things are or aren't fair. She needs an intimate friend to share stories with.