Sep 10, 2013 1 Share

The Hard Stuff


Cell phone floating on life saving device.
Thinkstock

It's hard for me to let my kids struggle, particularly when the kid is Reilly. 

I was in my second hour of phone calls for the political campaign I'm involved in when I stopped to Google something on my iPad and saw an SOS from Reilly in the form of a Facebook message. “Mom, I don't know what to do. I'm stuck at Old Westbury and my phone is dead.” This message was now two hours old. A quick scan of FB showed he'd been crying out for help from anybody at his New York Institute of Technology campus within eyesight of a digital screen. Of course, I immediately tried to call him, feeling stupid as I remembered the part about the dead cell phone. I pieced together what had happened, reading through his latest Facebook posts. 

It was his first day of college-credit courses at NYIT's Old Westbury (Long Island) campus. Reilly's program, the Vocational Independence Program, is housed at NYIT's other location in Central Islip. Two days a week, he takes a shuttle van to the other campus for classes, along with other kids in the VIP program who are taking college-credit classes. I had been following his day on Facebook. His first class, Criminal Justice went well, but he was feeling a little adrift because he was the only VIP student in the class. He had lunch alone, but the OW campus has great pizza in their cafeteria, so there was that. He posted again during a break in his next class, Speech and Communications, again lamenting that he didn't know anyone else in the class, and complaining that class is three hours long. By the time the class let out, his phone was dead and he had missed the shuttle back to his home campus. 

He did the only thing he could think of: He located a computer lab and started sending out digital cries for help. Some of his friends helpfully passed on the phone numbers for the Residence Assistance office, or the transportation office, but they did him no good, as his phone was dead. It didn't occur to him, apparently, to borrow a phone or to seek help from Campus Security or someone in authority. If he had been able to locate a pay phone, he most likely wouldn't have had change, or access to phone numbers to call. The action he took, while probably not the most efficient way to solve the problem, did eventually lead to his rescue. Someone notified the RA's office and the van was dispatched to pick him up. 

I could tell from his FB posts that he was upset and frustrated, and I jumped into Mommy mode. I called the Director of Residence, Walter, a really nice guy, to find out what had happened and if Reilly had been located yet. Walter assured me they had the problem under control, and Reilly was on his way back to campus. “But he asked for help more than two hours ago!” I wailed. As Walter talked, I calmed down and realized it was a minor incident and Reilly had taken steps to resolve it himself. Yes, he immediately reached out to me, but when I was unavailable, he went about looking elsewhere for help. He didn't need me to rescue him, and it was better for him that I didn't. 

Reilly needs to know he can do hard things, and solve problems on his own. Some struggling builds confidence and independence. He can be resourceful when he needs to be. His first instinct is to get help from Mom or Dad, and, as a youngest child myself, I get that. But the less available we are to run to his rescue, the quicker he learns to rely on himself. While I ache when I know he's in a sticky situation, I also know those are the times we learn what we are made of. 

“I'm sorry you had a rough day,” I commented on his Facebook page that night. “Tomorrow will be better.” He texted me the next morning with the news that his advisor had moved him out of the three-hour speech class and into a Modern World history class with a professor he had last semester, and in which he will have VIP classmates. Problem solved. He still has one class completely on his own, but two might have been too much for him this semester. 

By the next night he was excited about the NFL season opening game, and all was right in his world. I haven't heard much from him in the last few days, a good sign, I know. 

My homework this semester is to hover less and trust more. Reilly needs to, and can, work out his troubles on own.



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Anonymous

Same experience

My son commutes to college but since he doesn't have his driver's license yet it is up to me to pick him up. One day last week his cell phone died and he couldn't figure out how to contact me. It never occurred to him to ask at the library or the disabilities office to use the phone to call home. In the meantime I was panicking because I couldn't locate him after he didn't show at our regular meeting time/spot. I was heading to the campus one more time before I was going to contact DS office to help track him down. On the way there I saw him walking home. Now we have him charge his phone every night and have discussed alternatives with him. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to think of these alternatives on his own. We've been working on him with that. I'm crossing my fingers that he gets thru this first semester. After that he should be  okay. Of course he still needs to get his driver's license so I can retire my chauffer's hat.