A year ago today, we were preparing to move our then-21-year-old daughter to Toronto to begin 18 months of school. It was to be her first time away from home, in a city five times the size of the one she'd grown up in, five hours away from us...and it was a toss-up as to which one of us was the bigger wreck.
Mika, you see, has Asperger's...and for her, that brings a whole host of challenges, particularly in the area of executive function (planning, goal-setting, time-management...you know, all that day-to-day stuff you need in order to live away from home :P ). School had been her idea, and she'd been adamant that she was ready. She'd also resisted all attempts to discuss the actual move. Whenever I raised the topic of planning, she brushed me off with a "don't worry so much--I'll figure it out." If I pushed, she'd shut down and retreat to her bed, and I'd lose her for hours.
Bus/subway system in a city with a population of six million? "I'll figure it out."
Nearest grocery store and walk-in clinic? "I'll figure it out."
Route to school? "I'll figure it out."
And did I mention she was moving to a huge city five hours away?!?
I'm pretty sure I aged twenty years in the three months between registration and move, and Mika didn't fare much better. As our January 5 moving date approached, she became more and more shut down--to the extent that she was unable to join the family for Christmas dinner (she spent it huddled on the floor of her bedroom) and she still hadn't packed (or let me do it for her). Every second of every minute felt like I was walking a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon, because one wrong move or word on my part could trigger a full-blown meltdown lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several days.
Amazingly (I still shake my head that we accomplished it), the move took place on schedule. Did it go smoothly? That's a whole other story...several, actually. I wrote about it and the following months on my author blog, and you can read about it in three parts: here, here, and here. Suffice to say that it was...an adventure.
Does the overall story have a happy ending? Well...yes and no. Things didn't turn out the way we expected (or wanted), and Mika returned home at the end of June. In another living situation, she may have stuck it out longer--perhaps even to the end of the program. Mika has certainly speculated on the possibility, but I'm not a big believer in looking to the past with 'what if' questions, and that's something I'm trying to teach her, too. I honestly don't see her return home as a failure, and I don't want her to look at it that way, either. She learned so much in her time away...about life, about other people, about herself...and there were lessons in the experience (more about some of those in future posts) that will stand her (and us) in good stead in the future. For the moment, however, I just want her to trust that she'll find her own path in her own time.
Because when I look back at how far she's come in the past six months, the past year, the past twenty-two years, I have every faith that she will.
But that's a whole other story, too. ;)
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