Susan's Blog

Monday, June 9, 2008


I was folding napkins for dinner. In the middle of smiling at Joyful House Stompies, I stopped dead in my tracks. My brow pulled inward and my throat swelled, and there it was, grief out of nowhere. I watched Nat running back and forth, stimming, talking so loudly in his own language, and I suddenly felt leveled by what was to come. He was going to live at his school. It was really going to happen. The thing that I once feared so much, come to life. I had promised, when he was eleven, that I would never send him away. Anything that happened, our family would deal with it. We would just broaden our arms to hold it up.

So — my arms are tired. I find I cannot carry this much. I am opening them up, and letting him go. Our family is no longer bigger than our challenge, the way families with little kids are in control. We are beyond control. Nat and Max are breaking off, discreet lands of their own. We are bigger, and also smaller than we have ever been.

It is upon us now. I once feared this eventuality so much that I ran from it — for the first three years of Nat’s life. That thing — once the doctor at Mass General said the word, “Autism,” — was kind of a gray, shadowy essence that I could keep at bay. I did not have to see it. I did not know what shape it would take, but I could be optimistic. I could still say, “All bets are off. You never know.”

I was sad tonight because now there is one big thing I do know. He’s leaving.


Weeping tears of understanding as I read. It’s not easy, no matter how much you think you are prepared.

Sending you warm wishes for peace and acceptance.

— added by Niksmom on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 8:13 pm

Susan, I feel your pain. Never feel like you have failed because you are letting him live at school. I think promising yourself that you’d never let him be on his own is much worse than letting him leave. Boy, is that thought gonna slap me in the face someday!

— added by Bonnie on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Thank you. But really, I never promised that I’d “never let him be on his own.” I promised that I would not send him away. They are two very different things.

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I don’t know your family of course, but it sounds similar to leaving to go to college very close to home. He can still come home for weekends of home-cooked meals and lounging on the couch.

On the other hand, I’m having trouble just sending my boys to pre-school, so I can’t imagine how I’ll do when they actually move away. They’ll always be our babies!

— added by Mom to JBG on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Grief is just like that, hitting you in waves. I can’t know of course, but I feel like I do. Hold on, I hope it will feel different one day.

— added by KAL on Monday, June 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Susan, I know you said you would never send him away, but how were you to know then all that you know now about Nat? About how he might really, really, really like it? About how he really likes his friends and would like more of them? About how he can learn to be more of his own man away from his family (much like all young men everywhere at times)? Please don’t beat yourself up about it. I hear the pain in your blog and your writing voice. Try to reframe the ‘sending away’ from what it was in your mind way back then to what it is now – a growth for Nat. I wish you peace with it my dear, nothing more and nothing less. Penny

— added by Penny on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 6:24 am

Niksmom, Bonnie, KAL, Penny, everyone… Thank you.

What I mean when I refer to being afraid of what sending Nat away means — is that I don’t want HIM to think I sent him away!!!!!!!

— added by Susan Senator on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 6:37 am

My son Matthew is eleven and was diagnosed with autism in August, 2000. I know I will face this myself one day and already know how hard it will be. I think this also has a lot to do with him being your firstborn. It probably (hopefully) will get easier with each child. As a fellow autism mom, you are always in my thoughts and prayers. I know you are going to be so proud of Nat!

— added by Sharon L. on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 11:00 am

Susan, Nat will be embarking on an adventure, and a challenge. You’ve always been his biggest cheerleader and you need to bolster his confidence to further help him make this transition.

My 55 yr old sister in law has lived in her parents home her entire life after suffering some breakdowns in her early 20’s. Now, having lost her mother, and a father in his late 80’s considering a move to assisted living, my sister in law is facing the prospect of living away from her family for the first time. Quite frankly, I think that would be terrifying for her, and it freaks me out that my husband thinks keeping our son at home his entire life is the best course of action. Holy lonely, sheltered life, batman!! Sorry, I guess I pushed one of my own buttons.

You want the best for Nat, and you want him to be able to succeed in a variety of situations. You want him to have friends….

Turn that pain into strength, you have to do it for your boy. Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 11:37 am

Maybe somehow he will think that he is growing up, instead of being sent away . . . it is so complicated, though. We can only speculate about what our children think, how they view situations. I appreciate that you write about your feelings as you go through this process. I hope soon the feelings will not be so painful for you.

— added by Tanya Savko on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Susan, I spoke with a great friend of mine the other night who also has a son with autism. 2 years ago she did the thing she always said that she would not do. She sent him to live away from home and it has turned out to be the best decision for her, her son and the entire rest of the family. He is very happy and thriving in his home and the support staff are wonderful and loving. She also made the statement that she no longer worries about him. She also happens to be an emotional Jewish woman (don’t deny it!) so for her to say that is a huge deal. Trust! and Bless!

— added by DeeDee on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 9:52 pm

%d bloggers like this: