I suppose in some respects, the start of another school year always had for us something of hurricane season about it. There was the chaotic prep period, trying to make sure that each child had what he or she needed to start school, whether it was new clothes, school supplies, sports gear, or some other essential accessory. And then there was always hoping that we didn’t forego some supplies that would be sold out by the time we discovered our mistake.
As our kids got older, hurricane season took on a slightly different meaning. There were college applications—a process managed in our household with impressive aplomb, since we didn’t turn it into a family enterprise, or hire outside experts. And then there was the overarching worry—the storm brewing—that would be our autistic son aging out of the public school system at age twenty-one.
The thing about storms, of course, is that no matter how fierce or mild they might be, they all end at some point. So each storm season passed for us. Summer came, providing some version of (always imperfect) respite, and then it was time for storm prep again.
Oddly this year, at a time when Dorian, the biggest (actual) storm ever recorded in our region has unleashed its fury, I find myself feeling strangely calm. My college- and grad school-going kids are back at school. The former is settled in, feeling anxious as usual, but in her second year, far more familiar with routines, supports, and expectations, all of which we hope will make for a smoother semester and year than last year’s storm-tossed experience. Our eldest, in his last year of grad school, went off having been walloped by an unexpected bit of disappointing career-related news. It’s not that he doesn’t have options; it’s just that the thing he’d been working toward for over a year is, at least for the moment, not an option. And it might not be revived as one. I don’t know how disappointed or angry my son might be if that dream dies, but I know I feel deeply disappointed for him. And yet, even with that, there is a kind of calm I feel that is not typical for me. At all.
Perhaps it comes from having weathered so many storms that I’ve reached a point of surprising equanimity. As I look over the horizon for my middle child, an autistic young adult with an emptier calendar than usual this fall, I feel less frustrated than resigned. Life is what it is. I try to arrange things for him, but there isn’t much available, and I’m done knocking myself out for an hour class for him, or schlepping him to something he really doesn’t want to attend. And then there’s the issue of his self-direction budget not providing enough funding to cover a year’s worth of programs anyway. So really, why get upset, since that’s a dysfunctional system I have no hope of changing–and no intention of even trying to change. I will instead try to do a better job of concocting activities for us to do together, and my husband will take Noah to his office perhaps twice a week. My only real worry in that regard is if the weather gods look askance at us and turn bitter and blustery, when I need them to be placid and sunny. Then again, who I am to dictate a storm’s pattern? After diving in too many times to count, I’m thinking that if this turns into a rough storm season on the home front, hunkering down and waiting it out seems like a pretty good plan.
Nina Mogilnik’s professional career has encompassed work in the philanthropic, nonprofit and government sectors. Nina is also an avocational writer, and has had a number of essays about her experiences dealing with her father’s Alzheimer’s and her son’s autism published in Haddasah Magazine and in The Jewish Week. She was recently invited to blog for The Times of Israel and has been contributing her take on life and current events. Nina’s proudest accomplishment — and hardest job by far — has been as a mother. Nina has degrees in philosophy from Union College (B.A.) and from the University of Chicago (M.Phil). She lives with her husband and kids (human, feline and canine) in New York City. Read more from Nina Mogilnik here.
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