A year ago I started writing this column, observing (complaining?) that Reilly's winter break was too long. It's still too long. But I guess we've all adjusted to the college schedule now that he's in his second year at the NYIT VIP program. He still spends too much time sleeping during the day and staying awake to the wee hours of the morning for my taste. A year later, though, browsing through my columns, I can see growth and development.
Reilly has three college-credit courses under his belt, and is taking two more next semester. One, Speech and Communications, is the one he transferred out of last semester for scheduling reasons. He wants to take it, even though it promises to be pretty challenging for him. Communication is not his strong suit, and he has some vocal tics that can make speaking fluently somewhat difficult. I'm proud that he's giving the class another try, even as I'm worried that it will be hard.
His almost year-old relationship with his girlfriend, Ashley, seems to be going strong—a development I would not have foreseen a year ago. I can't help worrying that he doesn't know how to be a good boyfriend, but he's not welcoming of my advice. Ashley's birthday fell while she and Reilly were apart for winter break, and I asked him if he had called her. “No, I said Happy Birthday on Facebook,” he replied impatiently. “But Reilly, you probably should call her on her birthday. It's what boyfriends do,” I argued. “Mom, leave me alone.” End of conversation. He could use some relationship coaching, in my opinion, but I'm definitely not the one to do it. I guess he's on his own.
He might be making some progress on the hygiene front, though it's hard to tell. Right now he has a scruffy beard—he hasn't learned to like shaving. It takes less nagging to get him into the shower, though, and the dental hygienist says he's brushing a little better. (Though there is a lot of room for improvement on that front!)
For the most part, Reilly has been agreeable and easy on this break, even doing some chores with little complaint and coaxing. He got on well with his siblings and enjoyed the company and chaos of visiting relatives over the holidays. No major meltdowns (yet), but we still have a week of vacation left. Fingers crossed!
Reilly is happy at NYIT, has good friendships and is well-liked by students and faculty. He doesn't seem to be struggling with anything, at least not that he will acknowledge. He's hopeful about the future, and willing to transfer to another school for a major he's interested in, even if it means leaving behind the familiar, and his friends and girlfriend. He has written a decent essay for the application process, with very little nagging on my part. All good.
His counselor at school emailed me before the break with news of progress as well. She said Reilly was clearly stepping out of his comfort zone to initiate conversation and had taken a quiet freshman under his wing at the student coffee house one evening. He made an effort to talk to the student and they worked on a puzzle together. It spoke to an emerging awareness and empathy, I thought, though he claimed not to know what she was talking about when I mentioned it to him.
I have no shortage of worries about his future, among them how well he understands his disabilities and limitations and his willingness and ability to work at coping skills. Maybe that's the topic of another column. But as I look back at the past year, and contemplate the one ahead, I realize we're doing OK. Maybe better than OK.