The meaning of success

Mark and I made a leap of faith when Sam turned 18 years old not to seek guardianship. Something about guardianship felt over-the-top for his protection.

With him at home, it’s easy to keep tabs on a host of things as he builds his life skills — from maintaining his car to keeping his checkbook.

The older he gets, the more that feels like the right decision. I should keep my checkbook as well as he does. And the kid bought himself a set of tires this week the day after the mechanic advised it. I’m still trying to squeeze time for an oil change.

I’m glad that, even as I prepared my own will, I made sure none of the provisions I made for my kids implied something else for Sam than what Mark and I have done so far.

Here’s some Monday morning quarterbacking for parents of high schoolers or younger who think it may be possible to make that leap: follow your best instincts, but remember, once your child is out of high school, you have very little say in their accommodations.

Sam’s first year of college was tough.

I can’t say we weren’t warned. The last years of high school, Sam came to his ARD meetings (that might by an IEP meeting to those of you living in other states) to learn self-advocacy. He was getting the hang of it by the end of his senior year.

We did our best before his first semester at North Central Texas College to introduce Sam to the counselors in the TRIO department. I showed them the examples of the kinds of accommodations he needed — copies of the teacher’s notes, extra time to complete assignments on occasion, tutoring, and taking tests in the TRIO’s test center. Sam was there and was familiar with all that, but it would take him some time before he would get the hang of scheduling tests and tutoring sessions.

After the first meeting, I wondered if they had their doubts he belonged at North Central Texas College. We made a leap, and hoped the net would appear. Sam has this way of winning people over — and he did.

He got that charm from his father.

He missed some things the first year of college, and not all of that was solely his problems or responsibilities. (We’ve got a long way to go, if college campuses are going make the changes needed to accommodate this wave of kids coming of age.)

At one point, Sam signed a letter giving his TRIO advisor permission to talk to me when he was having trouble. We talked several times the second semester, and it looked like he was getting his sea legs. The semester after Mark died was rocky. I was deeply touched when three of the counselors there invited me to lunch. They were worried about how Sam was coping. We talked a little about how to help him, and I knew. They were as vested in his success as me.

That seemed the ultimate goal of self-advocacy: convince someone other than your mom to invest in your success.

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