that both Sarah and Max are home from college, I’m getting sucked back into the
mommy vortex. Yes, I know my twins are
supposed to be adults at age 22. In fact, ever since they turned 18, doctors
and educators have refused to talk to me without their consent. Yes, that’s right, I now need signed permission
forms from my special needs kids in order to interface with their doctors or
advocate for them with their colleges. All
of that became patently ridiculous when college tuition bills went unpaid
because Sarah and Max ignored them. The
truth is that today’s kids—or at least mine—seem to be growing up more slowly
than my friends and I did.
the ‘60s, when I was growing up, the hellish competition –to do well in school so
you can get into a good college, get a good job and (supposedly) live happily
ever after—was not nearly so intense. I
had a stay-at-home mom, but she never got involved in my school work unless I
asked for help. There was plenty of pressure to do my best (especially as an
only child) however I was expected to excel on my own. Stanley Kaplan was not a household name, and over-priced
SAT tutors did not exist. Families that
could afford to hire the few academic tutors available at the time only did so
in extreme remedial cases. Today any kid
without an SAT tutor is at a serious disadvantage in the college application
were no “Mommy and Me” classes when I was a kid. Many of us took piano or ballet lessons,
played sports or wrote for the school newspaper. But our days, weekends and
vacations were not completely swallowed up by the extra-curricular activities
and community service projects considered de
rigueur for entry into elite colleges today. There was more time to drift and dream, time
for family members to work and play alone or together. In
retrospect, that empty time was a mixed blessing. Sometimes my friends and I felt lonely or
bored, but we had the time and space to
experiment and become independent. We grew up in an era that was more adult centered,
not far from the idea that “children should be seen and not heard.” Our parents may have eaten more dinners with
us, but the conversations usually revolved around the adults (and God help the
child if he/she became the focal point). Now it seems the pendulum has swung to the
other extreme (at least in America), where family time is mostly child
In the 70’s, my “college guidance
counselor” was my high school principal.
He told me and my mother I was
an “over achiever.” But he didn’t stop
“Why don’t you stretch out your
long lovely legs and stop worrying about applying to the top colleges,” he suggested.
Shocked and hurt, I said nothing,
and I don’t remember my mother saying much either. What I do remember is that my parents
encouraged me to quietly ignore the headmaster’s advice. I applied to Vassar early decision and was
accepted. The headmaster’s
response? “You got in, but will you be
able to stay in?” (I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Class of
Today, if a headmaster uttered such
comments, he would be fired, sued or perhaps forced to undergo a mental health
examination. But at least he left me
alone to “over reach,” unlike most of today’s guidance counselors who
expect to have their advice followed and to be treated like demi-gods. Now there’s hell to pay if you and your son
or daughter apply to too many “reach” schools and not enough “safeties.” Even talented and gifted students can be
discouraged and made to feel inadequate.
it’s my fault for being a helicopter Mom, but how can I “let go” when my kids
have disabilities and today’s world is uber competitive? Without my nagging, Max would still be
applying to college, instead of having graduated two weeks ago. And without my advocating for Sarah and
helping her find the right support services, she wouldn’t be in college at all.
Sooner or later I know I’ll have to butt
out of their lives and let them make their own mistakes. This has turned out to be an extremely protracted process, somewhat like watching
has not yet found a job, and no amount of nagging can persuade him to send out the
large number of resumes that more ambitious and financially strapped students
feel compelled to send out. The eager beavers start over Christmas break of
senior year, if they hope to secure a job or an internship after
graduation. Like all good parents, Henry
and I are trying to network everyone we know to help Max get a toehold in the career
of his choice: the entertainment industry.
To my son’s credit, he has excellent grades, an impressive portfolio of
comedy clips, a novella, a TV pilot and a documentary film. Persuading Max to assemble, organize and put
these achievements out into the world has been a daunting and time-consuming project.
home now too. Unlike Max, her life is
pretty well planned for the next year: take a three-credit theatre course,
volunteer in a kindergarten classroom at a special ed school, and work with the
Columbia University director on expanding her short film into a
full length feature. Where do I get
sucked in? Sarah needs help preparing for the certification test to become an
assistant teacher. Providing this “help” is not as easy as it sounds. The
information needed for certification is fourth or fifth grade level and is
simple and straightforward for a neurotypical person. But since the test is comprised of multiple
choice questions, it’s extremely confusing and difficult for a person with
language processing and retrieval issues to pick the right answer. This is a
nightmare for Sarah (and therefore for me).
No amount of studying and explaining can fill the gaps in my daughter’s knowledge
and vocabulary. There is no prep that can help her to navigate the verbal
jungle of wrong-but-tempting answers offered on multiple choice tests. Nevertheless, I help as much as I can and
cross my fingers that it’s enough to pass.
much for career and academic independence. Now let’s look at all the myriad
doctors’ appointments both kids—er, adults—need. Sarah goes on her own for
routine visits to the gynecologist, the dentist and even our
endocrinologist. But each new doctor
requires my full participation. She lacks the confidence to fill out medical forms
unless I’m looking over her shoulder,
feeding her simple information, and reminding her to print small letters instead
of using her loopy and gigantic, nearly illegible script.
Both of us want her to do it herself, but she’s not ready yet. She also needs my help losing weight. (See
last week’s blog, “Body Mass Insanity”).
Now I’m supervising her diet, taking the subway in the rain to meet her
dietitian and trying to figure out why she’s only lost one pound in two weeks
on her excruciatingly strict meal replacement diet.
for Max, with his seemingly endless but mostly minor health issues, I almost
always feel that it’s imperative for me to go along to doctors. Max is not phobic about how to fill out
medical forms. But no matter how many
times I remind him to take his wallet and new insurance card, he still runs out
of the house without them. A few days
ago the internist’s receptionist would not allow my son to leave the office until he produced his insurance
card or paid $385.
thing I brought a book,” Max told the irate billing person, as he settled into
the waiting room. He read for over an
hour until he reached his father, who was able to provide the necessary
insurance information for his release.
Hmm…. Both kids sign HPPA forms at the doctor’s
office but we parents pay the bills.
And speaking of
bills, we may get stuck with a $65 vet bill because I failed to supervise Max’s
brushing of his dog’s teeth. Max has
been taking care of Sparky for eleven years.
It seemed normal to hand him a toothbrush and leave him to the
task. For some mysterious reason, Max
decided to use Colgate Total instead of the tooth paste the vet gave us. Now we’re not sure whether Sparky has
fluoride poisoning or is just under the weather from the Bordatella vaccine he
received this morning. The ASPCA won’t
tell us the answer unless we give them our credit card number.
I’m trying to let go, but it’s not easy
escaping from the mommy vortex.
Labels: college, dieting, family, HPPA forms, learning disabilities, multiple choice tests, parenting, special needs, student consent forms, tutoring. autism, twins.