I entered into this parent thing with no real preconceived notions or expectations. When I was a teenager, I babysat the neighbors kids every once in a while, but I never really had an experience with infants and children younger than 6 or 7. I was one of the first of my group of friends to have a child, so I didn't get to hang around many Moms and their sons and daughters. I was not one to plot out my future, so I never had a master plan how many children I wanted or what age I would conceive. Having a child is something that my ex-husband and I decided we wanted, and I got pregnant on the first try. So after we made this decision, it happened very easily and very quickly.
Having Jacob is something I've never regretted. He'll be 18 this September, so he'll be a legal adult with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it, and, oh boy, is that a scary thought. He's not graduating from high school for a couple more years, so until then, he'll still be switching from my house during the week and his Dad's house on most weekends. But it doesn't seem real that on his next birthday, he'll legally be able to vote, enlist in the military, or marry.
He'll also be an adult with autism. Even though he's a high-functioning and by all accounts doing well, it doesn't make it easier to grasp. And at this point, I don't know what his future will be. I've asked him if he wants to geat a job after he graduates from high school, and he says he doesn't know. I've asked him if he wants to go to college and what he'd like to study, and he says not sure. I've asked him where he'd like to live, with me or with his Dad, and he says he hasn't made a decision yet. He's given me no clear indication of what his future will be, so I just have to sit back, not get nervous, and hope for the best. Whatever that might be.
When I was 17 1/2, I thought I knew what I wanted - to make money and move away from home. I'd already graduated from high school. I liked to hang out with my friends and go camping, to the movies and to live rock concerts. I had a car, so I went on road trips with my gal pals. I worked in retail stores and restaurants for a while, then I enrolled at the local community college taking courses that I thought were interesting. Before I graduated from high school, I had a rough idea of what I was going to do with my life. My parents certainly didn't need to help me figure it out.
I know I can't compare Jacob to me when I was his age. I didn't have the challenges that he has. I've always had the skills to adapt to change. I've always been able to make decisions on what I wanted to do. Not all of my decisions were right and many were made by the young and immature young adult that was me at that time, but I made them on my own and I didn't rely on my parents. I can see that this is not the way it's going to be with Jacob.
Since the College Internship Program announced my position as Director of the Long Beach site, I've been getting a lot of calls from parents. The stories are all unique to their situation, but the concerns are the same. It's mostly Moms (with the exception a few emails from some Dads) that are worried what their sons (so far only one girl) are going to do. None of their children have friends. A few have attempted college, but they've dropped out. They can't hold a job. So many parents are deeply concerned and they don't know what to do. It's heartbreaking to hear so many parents at such a loss.
When I look at Jacob, I think about how uncertain his future is right now. In a way, that's good because he's a blank slate. There have been no serious setbacks yet, nothing has happened to dampen his self-esteem. But I know that eventually decisions will have to be made and he's going to have to commit to enroll in college or get a job. I'm thinking he'll enroll in CIP, but he's going to have to be motivated to go. I'm just hoping something will inspire him enough between now and when he exits high school so he can make a decision about what he wants to do.
There are no sure bets in life. We do the best we can with we have in the moment. I think I've made wise decisions about Jacob in regards to his services, therapies, and school placements, so I'm going to keep faith that this will continue. I'm going to rely on hope that he'll succeed with a job that he enjoys, friends that care, and place to live that he likes.
Time will tell if this comes true.