Sometimes it’s hard not to be angry. On Sunday, June 5, we attended Amy’s high school graduation ceremony. I was proud but I’m quite certain my feelings were not the same as the other parents as they watched their children walk across the stage. Amy was walking into new challenges just as her classmates did the same. But is it really the same? Amy’s not looking to be out on her own, planning her gap year, attending college, joining the military, applying to an apprenticeship, or looking for a job until she can figure out what she wants to be. There is no high school diploma for Amy, but a Certificate of Attendance. To say I am not proud would be a lie, but to say there are no feelings of resentment or anger would be a lie too.
As other senior parents celebrate their children’s 18th birthday and realize their children are now legal adults, we are figuring out how to apply for guardianship. Yes, it’s one of the additional items we, as parents of a child (now adult) with special needs, must write on our to-do list. In the past few months when I’ve mentioned this, everyone I spoke to was surprised. They looked at me with a blank stare until I reminded them Amy turned 18 at the end of May. “She’s legally an adult.”
“Oh, I guess so. I never thought of that.”
I sarcastically wanted to say, “And why would you?” but bite my tongue, as I know it’s the anger inside of me.
One time during the above exchange with a friend, I remembered a morning around my own high school graduation. My dad entered my bedroom, sat on the end of my bed, explained to me how my decision the night before upset my mom, and how he told my mom, “We’ve had 18 years to raise her. We’ve done our best. It’s up to her to make the right decisions.” Recalling that memory helped me pinpoint some of my anger. I would not be releasing Amy into the world of adulthood as my dad did for me that morning.
As I celebrated Amy’s accomplishments this May and June, I fluctuated between happiness and resentment. Friends and family at her graduation party told us, “She’s so grown up.” “She’s a great young lady.” “Look at how she is greeting every single guest.” “You’ve both done a great job raising her.” I thanked them as I nodded in agreement.
The next day, however, as I helped Amy come down from all the excitement the day before and tried to help her understand I couldn’t make my homemade enchiladas for supper when it was already 5:00, I felt the anger rise. Unlike most parents of seniors, instead of having to prod our daughter to write her thank you cards, we will be the parents who will need to help her match the signatures in the cards to the mailing labels. And, this is just one difference proving to me that, unlike my parents, we will never be able to fully release Amy into the adult world. Instead, she will always be our adult-child. The resentment triggered at these moments, eventually turns to guilt. Why do I have the right to be angered by my child’s needs? I know too many parents who have lost their child or whose child’s needs are so much greater than Amy’s. It is then when I take a step back and tell myself, sometimes it’s hard not to be angry, but I must also find a way to grateful too.