"I miss you," he said as I was driving him to school. I looked over at my 9-year-old who was looking out of the car window wistfully. I knew what he meant. We've both been always rushing somewhere: school, work, swim team, theater class, meetings. Get groceries, make tomorrow's lunches, repeat. We both miss the times when life was slower, simpler.
Going back to college has meant some sacrifice and a lot of change. For a child with autism even small changes can be difficult transitions, and I had gone and changed everything. Any child would have issues with that. There have been several deep talks about why I'm doing this, and what it could mean for both of us in the future. The future seems a very abstract concept when you're a child. Slowly, though, things begin to shift. Life fits back together again with all of its new pieces.
I could spout off the rhetoric and list the usual reasons for coming back to college, and they're all true. The most important reason wasn't as obvious, however. As our lives changed I began to teach him one more big lesson: how to succeed. As he reads my work and I read him my homework, through all the times he's heard "Sorry baby, Mom has to study now," he's been learning this lesson in ways that I didn't even realize until he started repeating them back to me. He knows now that Mom works hard and isn't giving up, even when it's tough. And because I can do it, he can do it too.
We all want better for our children. I know my parents did and still do. Lead by example and teach them how. When it gets tough is the time to dig your heels in. Study hard, ask for help, finish the semester the best you can, then register for the next semester. Repeat until you're wearing that graduation cap.
Gaynell Buffinet Payne