Miles to Go Before I Weep
This is the time of year when a student’s milestones are often celebrated. I’ve found myself becoming unexpectedly emotional about the milestones reached by those around me. The brother of my daughter’s best friend walked past me the other day in a T-shirt his 5th-grade classmates had autographed. I started tearing up at the thought of the 5th-graders moving on to middle school, no longer seeing the friends they’ve been with on a daily basis for half their young lives as they enroll in an array of different schools. Then while on Facebook, I saw pictures of my best friend’s niece, decked out in cap and gown for her high school graduation. A lump in my throat formed while I thought of her moving out of state later this summer, attending her parents’ alma mater. It seems everywhere I turn, I’m wiping my eyes as children around me reach major milestones.
But then I started to think about how Cameron had reached similar milestones, and I’ve never become emotional over his accomplishments. He’s participated in a ceremony signifying the end of middle school, received various certificates of achievement over the years, and has even gotten a medal for attendance. Call me cynical, but I’m somewhat jaded by award ceremonies where everyone gets an award for something. Perhaps this stems from my own experience as a softball player in 7th grade. The rule was that everyone received a game ball during the season. I received my game ball during the final game. The same game I missed because I was at a Rick Springfield concert. Needless to say, the game ball was not something I cherished. (Which was not the case with my Rick Springfield T-shirt!)
So I’m left wondering why I am experiencing the accomplishments of others with such emotion, and my own son’s accomplishments leave me dry-eyed. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t even purchased Cameron’s school portrait for the last two years. Perhaps the reason the milestones go by without me tearing up is because deep down I realize how long the road before him stretches. When I think of my best friend’s niece graduating from high school, and all that entails, and then compare that to Cameron earning a high school diploma, I realize that aside from the funny hat and robe, there is very little similarity between the two. While for most seniors, graduation is a giant step forward into adulthood, for a student with ASD, graduation can mean a leap into the abyss. After the party’s over, and the cake crumbs have been vacuumed up, what next? Again, call me cynical, but I’m not finding a wealth of postsecondary educational opportunities out there for a student with a sub-70 IQ. And the programs that are out there focus on things that Cameron has already mastered. Perhaps the reason my emotions have been in check is because those emotions are so mixed. While my heart swells with pride with every accomplishment Cameron makes, I also realize how much further he has to go before his work is done. And if I think about the unknown that lies ahead, I may find myself crying for a different reason entirely.