Susan's Blog

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Expecto Natronus

Expecto Patronus!
–Harry Potter, defeating a Dementor

It seems that the way I learn things is recursive, a spiral that moves upward but never remains forward and clear. Right now, however, my point in space is right up front, clear, and scintillating — in terms of Nat leaving for his camp on Sunday.

In order to explain what I am talking about, I have to go backwards. Last night I was having one of my usual blasts of self-doubt; this time it was about how to get Nat to the airport and on the plane. The logistics alone are an entire blog post’s worth of space, because he’s going with a staff person from his House, and not one of us. He’s coming here Friday, but going back to the House so that he can then go to the airport on Sunday, the day camp will start.

So I was thinking about what would be best: for me to go with him and his aide and help them check in and then I would leave for the Cape to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday…? Or should I say good bye to him on Saturday when I bring him back to the House? Or should I drop them both off at the curb at the airport?

These deceptively pragmatic concerns floated around like Dementors above my bed, and suddenly the clammy soul-sucking fear was revealed:

What If Something Terrible Happens…? How Can I Let Him …?

I lay there, wanting to wake Ned up and go over this, but I knew I had to let him sleep. My mind drifted further back, to a conversation I’d had Tuesday night with a friend. She had been telling me about her 19-year-old daughter who was now in college and all of her own gut-wrenching fears and guilt around letting her daughter just go and make mistakes, etc.

Usually when I hear these kinds of things, I find myself nodding but also thinking, “Yeah… but it’s different with Nat…” But suddenly, in the darkness, I had a vision of Max, graduating this summer from high school, and proposing a trip to — oh, I don’t know, Europe? California? The Andes? And how I would probably have to just let him go (provided he could afford it and we could discuss the plan). Also, though, how I would worry about every single thing he could possibly encounter, every disaster, every scary tragedy. The very same, utterly no different at all from how I am worried about Nat right now.

I heard my friend’s voice saying, “Yeah, but we just have to let them! And I think that’s really the right thing!” But she was almost frantic saying it, so I could feel her honesty, her conflict, and it resonated with me.

I would be just as worried about Max going off. Terror and tragedy around one child is exactly as terrible as around the other. Autism does not intensify the bad event. Bad is bad. And somehow knowing that, I relaxed! I had to let Nat go off to his camp without us on the plane or nearby, I had to let it happen. Horrors can always happen, but I don’t have to fixate on them. It is not a bad thing that I have planned this trip for him; it is actually a wonderful thing!

Exhale, close eyes, sleep.


The only problem I have is that my other two children learn from their mistakes while my ASD child doesn't seem to connect the dots in that same way.

Could you share the name of the camp? I have been looking for a sleep away.

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 8:11 am

Hmm… I see what you mean! But — I don't actually know if anyone really learns from their mistakes all the time; but surely you and I can think of how our ASD children have grown by learning from some mistakes? Such as, does he still touch something hot? That kind of thing.

I can't share the name of the camp; only with people I know, I'm sorry!

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 8:23 am

Hi. I'm glad to find you online. I am doing a zero-results search on the Sept. issue of Oprah Magazine's interview with a half-dozen Philly moms who take on Jenny McCarthy. I went to and saw you linked. I love what you are about. And I'm right there with you. Here's to those of us who say it like it is — the down and dirty, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly — and still find and Celebrate the Goodness in it. Bless you.

— added by Leisa Hammett on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 10:52 am

Goosebumps, Susan, you gave me goosebumps. My boys are so little and what you're talking about terrifies me but, what an example you are and how wonderful that you're sharing your journey. I will think back on your words when my boys are older, I'm sure of it.

— added by mumkeepingsane on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 10:58 am

Great post Susan, I like the feelings about Max being the same in some ways as Nat.

To the other poster here who is looking for the half-dozen Philly moms who take on Jenny McCarthy. They are good friends of mine. Specifically what are you searching for with them?

As a side note, isn't it funny that my 'word verification' for putting this post up is 'relief.'

— added by Penny on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

Jared got upset when I got out of the car at the airport, then for three days asked his dad and brother if they could go to the airport to see me. At the other end, when the boys loaded up the car to head south from my mom's house, Jared got upset that I wasn't going to be riding with them. Both of these outbursts were short-lived, but they got to me. Based on that, I vote you say goodbye on Saturday showing nothing but enthusiasm for his adventure. Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 11:31 am

I am so happy that you reached the conclusion you did. I am not a parent of a young adult with autism, however I do teach high school students with autism. My thought reading your post is the same thought I have every time one of my parents is fearful of letting their child go somewhere without them. "But they'll be with me and my staff–trustworthy people who know a great deal about autism and have done everything possible to plan ahead and make this trip as uneventful as possible."
Now I can tell you that as a parent of two "typically developing" children, I had a very hard time letting them travel by themselves as young adults! Go figure. It must be the mom in us…..

— added by debra on Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm

You are a very wise Mom! Letting go in all cases is very hard. Not that I can possibly understand you and Nat, but I think there are similarities to all Moms. A wonderful post!

— added by Donna on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:48 pm