The big day was finally here. Taylor was graduating high school! Not only was he graduating, he was graduating with his class, his friends that he had grown up with all through school. He was also graduating with a Standard Diploma, something this boy worked his butt off for!
I was one very proud mom. He had worked so damn hard for this day. Taylor was just so happy because for him, this day meant “no more homework, forever.”
This was a very happy day but it was also a very hard day…for me. I knew I would be an emotional basket case but I was completely unprepared for the feeling that would hit me as we went into the huge arena where their graduation would take place. This was a college arena and it was enormous!
We arrived early so we would have plenty of time to get Taylor where he needed to go and then find some really good seats for ourselves and our guests.
We walked around to the side entrance where the seniors were gathering. We began to walk in the door with Taylor but my husband and I were stopped by the teacher standing outside the door. She wouldn’t let us go in with him.
Graduates only. Sorry parents.
“But wait! You don’t understand, I have to be with him,” I wanted to scream.
Taylor was already gone. Poof! Into the building with a mass of 18-year-olds.
All I could think of was “He needs me!! I have to be with him!”
My husband assured me Taylor would be okay as he led me to the main entrance.
My head was a mess. I was a mess. How could my husband be so calm?
What if Taylor had trouble with his robe?
What if he couldn’t get his cap on right?
What if he didn’t stand in the right line or got out of alphabetical order?
Was there someone back there to help him?
I was panicked. My husband continued to try and reassure me that Taylor would be fine, but as the time went by I just became more and more antsy.
There was nothing I could do. I finally went with our family and friends to find the spot where we could sit and see Taylor perfectly, and then we waited.
Taylor’s school had more than 400 students graduating that day. With our last name being South, he would be one of the last to enter and would sit somewhere on the back rows.
Did I mention how big this place was and how many people were there? How were we going to find him afterwards. What if he got lost? What if it was too loud?
I was seriously struggling here, much to my friends and family’s amusement.
As the students made their way into the arena and to their seats, I finally saw him all the way on the other side coming down the stairs. Taylor was holding a piece of paper that had his full name on it. He would hand this to the principal before he walked across the stage. When I saw that piece of paper my first thought was, “He will forget to take it up there and then he will panic.”
“Please don’t let him forget,” I prayed.
It was also right after I took the picture above that Taylor began to veer off course. He started walking away to his right.
“OH MY GOD! Where is he going?!”
I could do nothing. I just watched helplessly from the other side of the arena as he walked off in the opposite direction from his group. Then I saw where he was going. He had seen a friend of his in the audience and he was running over there to quickly wave “hello” to her.
The sweetest moment ever!
Then he ran back to his spot and sat down.
He was fine. Whew!
I, on the other hand, was losing my mind. I turned to my friends Tara and Nicole and said “I hate this! I have absolutely no control. He is completely on his own. I can’t help him. I know he is okay but, but what if he isn’t?!”
Do you see where this is going?
Over the next hour, as the teachers and students stood up to give their speeches, my eyes stayed glued on Taylor. I watched him fidgit with the sleeves on his robe. I watched him rest his head in his hand, obviously bored and ready to go. I watched him play with the tassel on his hat. I watched him close his eyes and lean his head back like he was going to take a nap.
I watched him. As the students began to stand up as their row was called, I saw each of them grab their own little piece of paper with their names on it and carry it up to the stage with them.
“Please don’t forget your paper, Taylor. Please don’t forget!” is what I chanted in my head. I was so worried he would forget and then realize it as he stood up on the stage. Then, I imagined, he would suddenly run off the stage, back to his seat, bringing the ceremony to a halt to grab his piece of paper.
I saw this play out over and over in my head as the graduation went on.
After what seemed like the longest hour of my life, Taylor’s row stood up and began to make their way up to the front of the arena.
Oh No!!! Taylor was walking in line towards the stage and he didn’t have his paper!!!
About halfway up on his way to the stage, I see that he has realized his mistake.
He didn’t panic. He didn’t break away and run all the way back to his seat, holding up the ceremony.
He was obviously a bit concerned as he looked around at his other friends, but he held his spot.
He walked up the stairs and went right up to the principle. “Hey, um, my name is Taylor Joseph South.”
I obviously couldn’t hear this, but I imagine that this is exactly what he said.
The principle smiled at Taylor and then announced his name as Taylor walked across the stage to receive that diploma.
Taylor was ready to get off that stage but he looked so proud!
I was so proud of him!
He did it!
He didn’t need my help. He was surrounded by over a thousand people and this kid, this kid who couldn’t handle more than 7 people in a room talking when he was young, just walked across that stage like a boss,
As it turns out, it was me that had the struggle. I realized that this adult thing was going be harder for me than I had anticipated.
My husband and I are now a parents of a young adult with autism. This was the beginning a new chapter in our lives.
I was terrified during the weeks leading up to this day, but as I watched Taylor throw that cap in the air, I was filled with a new sense of hope.
He was going to be fine. We are going to be fine. I still understand that Taylor won’t have it as easy as his peers. He will continue to have to work harder and he will always have Autism but I know Taylor is going to be okay. He may not need us to carry him as much anymore, but we will always be by his side ready, as we continue this journey together.