Friday, October 27, 2017

Kinda, Sorta, Adult

It’s early on a fall morning. My eyes pop open before I want them to.  My mind is already off and running with thoughts.  Blue has an appointment scheduled with his Academic Coach. He’s supposed to get up early to go catch the train. I don’t hear any movement outside my door. My bed is exceptionally cozy since it's finally feeling like fall in late October. I did not sleep well, so I'm still pretty tired, but nevertheless, awake.

I decide not to get up to wake him, rush him out the door, and get caught up in the transportation issue that has been created by his oversleeping. Instead, I will let him deal with the natural, life consequences of being late or missing his appointment.

I find myself consistently pulling back from saving him from himself. It takes mental energy to watch him tread water, yet not moving forward. I want to throw him a life raft and pull him along, but that's really not my job anymore. He's an adult. Kinda. Sorta.

He had this massive paper due last week. It wasn’t supposed to be massive. It was only supposed to be five pages. But he thinks profoundly --in great detail.  It was too hard for him to decide which elements could be left out. The paper ended up being double the size required and also being turned in late. Luckily for him, his professor could see his enthusiasm over the subject and was willing to work with him by giving him a time extension.

For weeks, he kept coming to me with his frustrations and anxiety. I would steadily refer him back to use his resources at the college. "I'm not in college. This is not a paper by consensus. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and in my opinion lead to more anxiety and confusion," I told him.

I consistently referred to my confidence in him. "You have done this before. You are more  than capable of completing this paper."

I was exhausted from watching him procrastinate and fret. I think I was happier than him or his professor when he finally turned it in.

It's not just school. It's the everyday life skills that he's having a hard time with. On his 18th birthday, I gave him the gift of washing every last stitch of his clothing. I also told him, it would be the very last time, I would ever do so. He hasn’t had an empty laundry hamper since then.

One day last week, he came down the stairs wearing swimming trunks, a swim shirt, and flip-flops.  Again, it’s October. He was on his way to go out and get some lunch and work on his paper at a coffee house.

“Are you going swimming?” I asked.
“No. I’m just tired of wearing jeans and I don’t have any other clean shorts.”

No shit. Sherlock! I say that I lot lately.

I was just on my way out of town for the weekend.  It killed me, but I didn’t look back. “See you on Sunday,” I said. “Hope you have some clean clothes by then.”

It’s depressing watching him leave the house looking homeless half of the time. I am definitely no longer in charge.

The other day, I met him out at Starbucks.  He clearly had not combed his hair before he left home that morning.  Yet, he insists on wearing an “afro” these days. Why do you want long hair if you don’t want to comb it? Clearly, I don’t get it. I try so hard not to say anything every day, but it’s not easy for me to ignore. I am that mom ..the one who has a really hard time minding her own business.

I know that being rebellious about the way you dress and wear your hair is a typical thing that teens do. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to watch.

I always made sure my boys were clean cut and neat when they left my house to go out into the world. Being black boys in a mostly white world, I never wanted them to be perceived as someone to be afraid or leery of. They already stand out because of their stature, and by simply having brown skin. They don't play the game of smiling and being nice when that's not what they're feeling inside. That combination can get you killed in this America.

But like I said, clearly I am no longer in charge of his appearance or his hygiene. All I can do is give him information. Ultimately, it’s up to him if he uses it. I don’t think when he leaves the house, he thinks about what day it is,  much less, what would happen if he were stopped by cops and has red eyes, and untamed hair, dark skin, and fleeting eye-contact.

This is my third time at this rodeo with an 18-year-old.  Most boys go through the phase of having no idea who they are, and what they want out of life. They know the next steps should involve more education, but transitioning from one phase to another seems impossible.

My 29-year-old would rather stay up all night playing video games than to be a responsible college student when he was 18.  He did finally earn his degree many moons later and thankfully his extended education was paid for by the Army National Guard.  The difference between him and Blue is, I could kick him to the curb …out of the nest when he decided to take his time growing up, knowing that eventually, he would fly.  He may have flailed around a bit, but he would figure things out.

My current 18-year old would rather eat and sleep his way through this transition into college. Because of his autism and anxiety, it won’t be as easy to push him out, sink or swim, fly or fall.  I may have to get a little more creative about how and when I push or exactly where I push him to. He will still need support. It may just be better if it doesn't come from me.

One thing I know for sure from these three experiences, with three different 18-year-old, brown boys --they may need a push but eventually, they will figure things out. And I think, all the faster if I’m not around to watch their every move. I have to take away the safety net or at least make it slightly less visible.

This is his personality least with his mama.