Friday, March 25, 2011

Dream Adjustment

Yesterday I had a parent/teacher conference at Ethan's school, and in the process discovered how much I have learned.

Driving there, I felt a familiar tension. I just don't want to hear a bunch of negative stuff. I don't want to get in a bad mood, I started out thinking. Then I had to stop myself. First, I was responsible for whatever mood I ended up in. And second, I realized my confidence or lack thereof could not come expressly from whatever Ethan's teachers told me, good or bad. I have a habit of looking for encouragement to boost my mood. Not that encouragement is a bad thing. But I've learned lately that I have to learn to encourage myself, or as the verse says, "encourage myself in the Lord," when others aren't doing so.

On to the meeting. I talked with the special ed teacher, the speech therapist, the other preschool teacher in the integrated room. He's doing well with speech. Social skills are slower in coming, but he plays alongside kids. Overall, he's doing really well. They listened to my concerns and agreed to hold him back in the 3's again next year. Yes! Sweet relief was pouring over me.

We were talking about the rationale behind making sure Ethan does not start kindergarten at age 4. "Well, he's very bright," said Dianne, the special ed. teacher. "I can see him probably working at grade level when he's in kindergarten or first grade. And then, you know some of these kids you could be talking about college. And that would mean he'd be starting college at 17."

Several things exploded in my head at that moment. College! I was thinking. She said college! Immediately I saw myself just a few days after Ethan was diagnosed, opening the mail and seeing the paperwork from his 529 college savings account, and bursting into tears. Dreams I didn't think I even had felt splintered into thousands of pieces. And now here were Ethan's teachers, mentioning his name and college in the same sentence.

But there was more than that. I realized that my joy came not so much from the mention of college but that my son's teachers believed in him. They saw his potential. Isn't that all we can ask of our child's teachers?

And even beyond that -- I understood once I heard the world "college" that college was no longer a dangling carrot, once of those elusive pieces of "normal" life that if Ethan could somehow achieve, would somehow prove that everything was okay. No. College suddenly appeared to me as a nice idea. A possibility. But not a necessity for proving my son's worth, for proving he had "beaten" autism. I love the idea of hoping. I love the peace that comes with acceptance even more, though.

"I am not going to college!" Anna has proclaimed to us numerous times. She wants to do crafts; be an artist or something. How ironic would it be if Ethan ended up in college and Anna did not? I have no idea. That's the funny thing about autism. It makes you consider things you had only assumed in the back of your mind, when your child is very young (he'll grow up and go to college/get a job/get married). Autism brings to light what your priorities are, and why. Autism asks you to adjust your dreams, and I'm learning sometimes, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

1 comment:

φ said...

Excellent post.

Sometimes we become so familiar with disappointment that we hope and pray for the bare minimum. We can, however, dare to have a little faith for those impossibilities, for "all things are possible with God."