Susan's Blog

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Daze of Our Lives

It’s Rosh HaShanah, literally “the head of the year,” the Jewish New Year. Ned’s company doesn’t seem to realize that this is one of the most important days of the year to Jews, and so they have scheduled some kind of big deal dinner. So that’s where he is.

I made Rosh HaShanah dinner for my boys and me: candles, juice in a wine glass, round challah (the circle of life, of course), and apples and honey. Baked potato and roast chicken. Nat said the prayers and Max tried to join in, but really Nat knows the Hebrew best. Ben just kept saying, “Mother, it is not January! The New Year is in January!” What a pill.

We went around the table and talked about what we would like the next year to bring for us. Ben wanted more healthpoints I think (gaming talk), and Max kind of said he hoped he’d do well in school, after I suggested that one. Jeez. I didn’t ask Nat. I don’t really know why. I just wanted him to have some peace, and us, too.

I had an amazing session in therapy today, where we talked a bit about 18-year-olds and the need to let your children leave, grow, explore, learn, make mistakes, all of those things. Through a thick haze of tears I listened to her tell me I was a devoted mother because I knew I might have to let him go and live somewhere else, where they could really help him and work on all of his marvelous skills. There, at the school’s residence, they would work on his IEP 24/7. Independent Living, all that, all day. He would begin to learn how to live among others, rather than just his loving, soft Mommy and his strong, wise Daddy. And his puppy brothers.

I don’t feel like a “devoted mother.” I feel like I failed, somehow. Like I was hired for a job that I was not qualified for. I had rushed in, persuaded all the powers that be that I was the one to be a mom on November 15, 1989, I wanted it, wanted it, wanted it. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted someone who needed me.

So, along came Nat. You know the rest.

I was all wrung out from therapy, but full of a better understanding of what my role as Nat’s mom is or perhaps what it will be. It has never been what I thought it would be. It has been full of stark, raw surprise, a wide open hurting heart, low-level chronic depression, and explosions of sharp, pink joy. Loving Nat has been better exercise for my heart than all my running, biking, and dancing. And now my life with him is taking me past another huge milestone and into brand new territory. But it feels like a bit of a finish line, too. A passage. Perhaps we earned this, Nat and I.

I poured some of my emotional energy into following up on some articles I’d pitched here and there. And then I got an email from a New York Times Magazine editor asking if I would perhaps write a column for “Lives” about Nat.

I made some wishes as I blew out the holiday candles, the usual stuff about my loved ones, the basics. God already knows what I would ask for but I have found that it never hurts to reiterate.

L’Shanah Tovah


Hi Susan — I read your blog and am a big fan. Never have introduced myself, though. I’m Julie, living in Milton, a mom of three kids — a daughter, 6 years old with PDD; a son, 3 years old with PDD, and another son, 2 years old without any issues (so far, so good.) I’m a music teacher, singer, and beginning freelance writer. I heard you speak at the FCSN conference in 2006 and was very moved and encouraged by your story.

ANYWAY. The reason I’m writing is because I’ve been thinking about you and Nat, and about letting go, and how I bet most mothers of 18-year-olds struggle with the very same issues at the root of your recent struggles with Nat. Of course no one knows exactly what you’re going through, but I think every mom has to find a new way of mothering at every new stage in our kids’ lives. My kids are younger than yours, but I feel it, too, even if Abby is only starting first grade.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I admire you very much — your honesty, your insight, certainly your writing! — and I wish you all the best as you and Ned figure out how to be Nat’s parents as he moves into the next phase, whatever that may be.

Peace, and happy new year.

Julie Fay

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Wishing you peace in your heart in the new year.

— added by Niksmom on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Terrific post, Susan. Shana Tova!

— added by Nancy Bea Miller on Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Happy New Year!
Best wishes to you and your four guys! You are a wonderful mother. I am sure you will succeed to help Nat find his path in adult life.

— added by Maya M on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:37 am

Susan- I’ve never posted a comment before but I keep up with your blog. I really can’t fathom the pain right now with all these big changes. I just wanted to add that a friend/mentor of mine just placed her daughter and it has gone extremely well. She is only 15 but it has been so wonderful for her to have the structure and routine etc and she is learning new skills at a much higher rate. Not at all has she been abandoned by her family- in fact I would say she is happier than ever before! Good luck with your decisions.
By the way my son is autistic and I had a good cry at the OT today, so you were in good company with the emotions.

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 2:33 am

L’shana Tovah! hope it’s a happy and healthy one for you and your family 🙂

— added by peer model on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 10:05 am

L’shana Tova, Susan! Here’s to new and auspicious beginnings! Julian has also wished for healthpoints, when quizzed about his most fervent wishes — great minds think alike! A sweet New Year to you and yours! -TPeacock

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:55 am

Hi Susan,
L’Shana Tova.
I wrote a blog some time ago, entitled LETTING GO. It was about my ‘typical’ children leaving for college. The sentiments prevail, whether for my autistic son, or not.
Give yourself a well earned kudo for loving and caring and just being you.
X Robin

— added by Robin H. Morris on Friday, September 14, 2007 at 8:45 pm

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