Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Me Worry?

Jacob will be 17 on the 30th, and it doesn't seem possible that he's grown up to be the young man that he is today. But here he is and here I am. He just starting at the local high school, the first time he's been enrolled in public school in almost 13 years. Me figuring out if I'm returning to college for a Masters in Social Work after graduating with a bachelors degree almost 30 years ago.

I've never been one to plot out my future in great detail, but I have set goals that I've accomplished. I graduated from college and worked in various jobs the entertainment industry. Getting married and having a child was not something I felt like I had to do, but I did by following my instincts, doing what seemed right, and then happily living with the results.

Overall, I'm content with my life. In retrospect there's not much I would have done differently. In high school, I would have been more confident and enjoyed activities I was too insecure to try, like drama and the glee club. In college because I find the study of the mind so interesting, I would have majored in psychology instead of communications. Because the of the failure of the business that Jacob's father and I started, I would have put aside much more money in savings than I did. But there aren't any major changes I would have made in any of my choices.

But when it comes to Jacob, I'm not so sure. I try not to look into the future, because with him, I don't know what that future holds. I do know that I want him to be happy. I want him to find a career that he finds rewarding. I want him to have friends, to have relationships and to get married one day, if he so chooses. I think about his future more than I ever thought about mine. But will he have a future full of all the good things in life? I don't know. And that is very scary.

I love Jacob with all my heart, and there isn't anything I won't do for him. I don't think this makes me a unique parent. I think all parents feel this way, or at least I think they should. I also don't think that as the parent of special needs child, I'm that unique either. Whatever he needed that was within my budget, I got for him. I obtained services from the school district and the Regional Center. I was always volunteered at his schools in the classroom and in the various school fundraisers and functions. I just did what I thought was the right thing to do, just as I've done with all of the decisions in my life.

So, with Jacob, I've put in many hours of planning, meeting, volunteering, worrying. Yes, worrying. Me, the one who doesn't have a master plan, who's made decisions with the instinct of what felt right, worries about the future of her teenage son. What is up with that? Since I've felt confident in the decisions I've made in my life, does this worrying really make sense?

I've spent so much of my time as Jacob's Mom making sure he had what he needed. I've coordinated meetings with professionals, emailed teachers, and involved him in activities. I've looked at placements, attended school district meetings, researched summer programs, arranged playdates. I've spent hours and hours of my life making sure that he was getting what he needed.

So, his upcoming IEP is scheduled in just a few weeks, and, for the first time, Jacob will be attending. I will be there, but this will be the first time he'll be advocating for himself. We've been discussing the meeting, and I'm letting him know that he'll need to communicate his needs. He's really motivated by money (hey, aren't we all?), so we've been talking about this alot. I'm telling him that if this information comes from him, it will have more meaning. I'm trying to get him to decide what he wants and what he'll be asking for. How successful will this be? I have absolutely no idea.

Will this be the beginning of his taking ownership of his life? Is this the beginning of finally being able to sit back and watch my son blossum into adulthood? I certainly hope so. I know I can't compare Jacob to me at his age. When I was 17, I was going out with my friends, attending to Day on the Green concerts at the Oakland Colliseum, and starting to discover the joys of partying. I gave my parents a tough time because of my behaviors, but isn't that what being a teenager is all about, separating from your family so you can form your own identity? Jacob couldn't be more like I was. He's content to sit at home and hang at the computer. I'm sure if he could, his preference would be to live with me the rest of his life. For me at 17, staying home with my crazy Mother would have been a fate to be sufferingly endured. For Jacob, this would be a comfortable existence of not making decisions and letting his Mom supply him with all the comforts of life.

So yes, I do worry. I worry about what Jacob will do with his life. I worry about what Jacob won't accomplish. I worry that all of the years of planning and preparing will have been for naught. I worry that Jacob, the once beautiful baby boy, the now handsome young man, will be alone and unemployed. I worry that I will have failed as a parent.

Does the worrying solve anything? I know it doesn't. But do I still worry? Yes, I do.

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