I are college educated

My husband does not have a college degree. I am not passing judgment here, just supplying a bit of background information. You see, when I do something dumb, he might make a snarky comment about the “usefulness” of my college degree. Or if I share an anecdote about something ridiculous at work, he might snort incredulously, “And these people are college graduates?!”

I think we all know someone who is book-smart but lacks common sense. We all can name people who have never set foot in a college classroom yet who display great wisdom.  I currently work at a highly selective liberal arts college complete with elitist attitudes. Me, I went to a state school, so there are times when I adopt my husband’s point of view when I encounter supposedly well-educated people doing stupid things. “Gee,” I think, “you got a really expensive degree yet you can’t figure out how to <insert an incredibly simple task>?”

But, truth be told, I can be a snob, too. I’m not above thinking that earning a college degree gives me an edge.

When I was pregnant, I felt a combination of fear and bravado. I was afraid since I had never planned on having children.  (Note to self: a bachelor’s degree is not a contraceptive).  I hadn’t really thought of myself as a mother, but I had nine months to mentally prepare. I treated pregnancy like a 400 level course with childbirth as the final exam. I read all the books that I could. I researched like there could be a pop quiz at any moment.

As I imagined what my life was going to become, I often assured myself that I could handle it. Why? Because I didn’t have just any old degree – I had majored in education and then taught elementary children for almost seven years. During those years, I took graduate classes and participated in countless workshops, lectures and other forms of professional development. Surely, if anyone can be prepared for parenthood, it has to be a teacher, right?

See what I mean about some people with college degrees not being too bright?

I was an itinerant teacher back in my former life. That meant I traveled between classrooms and schools. In those seven years of teaching, I worked at fifteen different schools and taught thousands of different students.  Now that I’ve learned of its prevalence, one might assume I interacted with at least a few students with autism spectrum disorder.

I only remember one.

The one student I remember had Asperger Syndrome.  Despite my child development and psychology classes in college, I’m not sure I knew at the time that Asperger’s is “on the spectrum.”  And, I am positive I had no clue how to effectively modify my classroom or adapt my teaching strategies to meet that child’s needs.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day she had a meltdown in my classroom, was physically restrained and then removed from the room.

I look back to my brief teaching career and think of all the times I thought I was battling behavior issues in students, but I now suspect that it was my lack of understanding of the way in which some children process the world.

Now that I am a mother, I realize how little I really know about anything. But if going to college and being a teacher prepared me for anything, it is to be a lifelong learner. I’m not disappointed that I don’t know it all. In fact, I look forward to learning and discovering new things with my child.

Becoming a parent, especially the parent of a child with autism, has been a humbling experience. These days, I often think how woefully unprepared I was for motherhood. It is not the life I imagined while my son grew inside me. It was not the life I anticipated when he was born and hit those early developmental milestones. It was not the life I expected when I mistook his spinning for dancing or believed that his interest in lining up objects was the way that all children played.

It has been only two months since Philip was diagnosed. I am still on the roller coaster of emotions associated with that. I cried that day, but not because the doctor confirmed what we already expected. I didn’t cry from grief over the loss of the life I had been imagining. What made me cry that day was hearing the psychologist read from the remarks written by Philip’s teacher on one of the evaluation forms:

“Philip is easy to love.”

It doesn’t take a college degree to appreciate that.

Being loveable at bath time

I was reminded of this post when I read “When I Was 21” over at Stuphblog last week. It’s now been two years since the diagnosis, but it doesn’t hurt to look back on my thoughts and feelings at the time, especially since Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month is almost here. Linking this up with the good folks over at the Yeah Write #154 Weekend Moonshine Grid.

30 thoughts on “I are college educated

  1. As I mentioned to a friend who commented on Facebook, I wasn’t sure I wanted to publish this post. But I know that swallowing my pride is the only way that I going to do right by my son. And I can’t increase others’ awareness of autism if I can’t get past my own ignorance.
    I appreciate your comments on my posts. I would keep publishing this blog even it was only my parents reading it (hi mom! hi dad!), but it is nice to know I’m not alone out here.

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  2. “It was not the life I anticipated…it was not the life I expected.” Wow your words are really resonated with me as I just got back from finishing yet another “parenting a child with autism course.” Maybe the life we led before was to prepare us for this journey? When I go to these courses I keep meeting so many amazing Moms who are also struggling with the same issues that you raise in this post. I think whether we have college degrees or not…in the end we all have to be open to learning all through our lives ( I have one too). You are an amazing Mom and your honest posts on your blog really show that. Keep sharing:)

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  3. Great post. Yea, you are now on the “road less traveled”, welcome, I have been on it a decade. It is a hard, hard road but a great adventure.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family. Invest in yourself. Seek a measure of joy.

    I hate to plug my own blog (I guess this makes me an ego maniac) but I wrote a whole series on things I wish someone had told me when my son was first diagnosed as severely autistic.

    http://stoppingpuncheswithmyface.com/2012/03/page/17/
    http://stoppingpuncheswithmyface.com/2012/03/page/18/
    http://stoppingpuncheswithmyface.com/2012/03/page/14/

    I really wish someone had told us these things when I was going through all the pain. (FYI this is comment seems too self serving, don’t approve it, I won’t be hurt, but I think the info could be helpful.)

    Good to know BA’s are not contraceptives 🙂

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  4. OK first, love this “a bachelor’s degree is not a contraceptive”. But the end, that your son is lovable? So touching. Very happy you linked this up with me for my #Birthaversary!

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  5. With Jennifer: contraceptive line is priceless!!
    Very touching article. God Bless your teacher for having both the smarts and the wisdom to leave such a comment.

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  6. This made me cuddle up with my coffee cup and feel all cozy inside. I giggled and nodded my head and even teared up. Great story to share, so glad you did. The contraceptive line is priceless. Do you mind if I share this on my FB page? I know a lot who can relate and will laugh at your thoughts on the college degree issue…I have a BA and my husband does not…I sooooooo get his remarks and am in touch with your snobbiness 🙂 Also, I have several friends raising autistic children, I know they would enjoy your words.

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  7. I appreciate your story so much because it always helps me personally. My son is not autistic but he has been in special education all of his school years because of severe dyslexia and other developmental issues related to being born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and not getting it cut off in time to avoid damage. The teachers all warned me about the consequences of having him tested and placed in special ed, but his needs were my first priority and special ed provided him an education that he wouldn’t have received any other way. But now the stigma follows him beyond high school and he can’t get a job, can’t go in the military, can’t, can’t, can’t… It’s so frustrating knowing I did the best I could to get him a good education, and now he’s stuck. It’s really tough!

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    1. One of the reasons my husband cried at the time of the diagnosis was realizing that our son would likely never serve in the military. My husband served in the Marines for over ten years, so it saddened him to think that opportunity won’t be their for Philip.

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      1. My father was a Marine, too, and my career was with the DoDgers (Navy) and my 4 brothers covered Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard… I can definitely relate to his disappointment.

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  8. I never went to college. That’s not uncommon for the small town I live near, but there are times, and circles I find myself in, when I cringe inside when I have to tell a group of the well or overly educated, that I’m just a farmer. Too often are the times when those “well educated” will then spout on about the years of training they have and the money they’ve invested in their careers. I don’t tell them that I’ve pretty much invested my whole life into what I do and I probably owe the bank more than 2 or 3 of their school loans combined. Nobody’s better equipped than anyone else when two people get together to create a life. Be it planned or accidental. It’s a field leveller. Some people are dealt challenges and some of those people more than rise to the occasion. I believe in all my heart you’re one of those.

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    1. Oh, Ken. To hear you say you are “just a farmer” makes me cringe. Without farmers like you, how would we eat? Plus, your lifetime of experience is, in my opinion, equal to if not greater than what I learned in my years in college.

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  9. This was really touching. I agree with Twindaddy – it’s so crazy that wisdom comes from acknowledging how much you don’t know. Especially when it comes to parenting. I’m so glad you dug this post up and shared it on the moonshine grid!

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  10. I love this post. I am similar to you in the college degree department (which hasn’t quite prepared me for life like I thought it would), and the nervousness about motherhood. And I love those last two lines. 🙂

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