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The Gently Painful Transition

Posted Apr 10 2011 4:39pm

Sometimes I look at my boys and I think, “Those are my eggs.”  I am full of wonder at what they once were, and how they evolved into who they are now.  But what happened with the oldest one?

A few weeks ago, we had Nat’s ITP, which is his Individualized Transition Planning meeting.  Among other things, we were told by our Department of Developmental Services liaison that we should be seriously transitioning Nat away from Home weekends.  Our liaison told us, very sensibly, that we need to do this in order to make the case that Nat needs residential support and cannot live at home after graduation.

Nat can’t live with us.  I can say that now, 21 years after Nat’s birth.  When Nat first hatched, my fluffy yellow chick, he was so raw and vulnerable.  I could not feel happy because I was so afraid for him.  I did not believe I could leave him with anyone, not even Ned.  I actually thought he might die if I did (when he was a week old, my first outing).  Maybe all people feel that way with their firstborn, though.

Nat can be without me now, for weeks at a time.  And that’s how it has to be.  Nat can’t live at home.  But this is not about how age appropriate it is for a young man to live away from his parents.  If he lives at home, he regresses.  He becomes a walking nerve ending, taut gangly ganglia.  He goes through activities in a rote, rushed way.  I don’t know if he enjoys anything when he’s home, other than his social group.

Which is age appropriate.  I guess.  But sometimes I have to admit I feel like I’m stretching things.  I worry that I’m making stuff up.  How do I really know for sure?

But I always maintain that knowing Nat is part leap of faith, part optimism, part mystery, and part nuts and bolts fact.  Today I am thinking of the mystery.  I’m not all that optimistic because I’m sad that he’s not with me today.  I’m in a coffee shop alone.  I have all the time in the world.  No one is gulping down a huge brownie and standing up, ready to lope back home.

I have mixed feelings about those kinds of soothing arguments people make when I am heartbroken about one particular passage or another.  When Nat first moved out, a lot of people rushed to say, “Well, he’s almost 18.  He would be going to college at this point…”

Yeah, don’t finish that sentence, thanks.  I am not that together that I can just go with that, strong and smiling.  The fact is, Nat is not going to college, it is not the same thing.  Nat is going to be living in an apartment with other guys, like Max, but the guys won’t be like Max.  And Nat will have 24 hour oversight by another adult, someone who would know to call 911 at appropriate times and not open the door to random people.

I sound crabby and I suppose I am.  I missed Nat so much this weekend.  But this was also one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.  I went to a party that was just perfect:  enough people I knew, some I’ve known forever, and also others I sort of knew, and still more I wanted to know.  I was dressed right.  There was dinner, dancing, heavily-frosted birthday cake.  My handsome husband even danced with me.  The only anxiety I had was whether Nat was having an okay time in the Residence.  Was he sad without us?

Will I always have this gentle pressure in my throat, my chest, Nat’s presence inside me?  A kind of peripheral pain – not even an ache, but a sigh.  I think so.  He is my son, but he is the son who will always need my help in order to survive.  My other two sons already know how to keep themselves alive and even thriving – and one of them is only 13.  Nat knows how to do many things, but he still doesn’t know to do them.

I feel like if I go on like this I run the danger of people feeling sorry for me.  Or people telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself.  But it is not myself I’m sorry for.  It’s my darling, my not quite fully-cooked egg.

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