How to celebrate/mark son's college graduation
December 4, 2020 9:58 AM   Subscribe

My son is graduating in a couple weeks with his BS in film. This is a wonderful achievement for anyone, but especially for him who has had significant learning difficulties (he is on the autism spectrum), and I am very, very proud of him.

Things in our state are very restricted for the pandemic and on the verge of lock-down. The graduation ceremony is through zoom. He and I are the only ones in our household. The other interested parties are his sister who is a couple of hours away and can't travel here, an aunt who is local, another aunt who lives in another state, and his father who is also local but with whom he is not very close. With my son's agreement, we will have a short (no more than half an hour) zoom "party" after the school's graduation ceremony.

He is on the autism spectrum and doesn't really have any friends except the people he "knows" through gaming but has no other social exposure to (even before the pandemic).

I don't have a whole lot of money to give him or spend on him, not more than a couple of hundred bucks. Complicating this is the fact that his birthday was just a few weeks ago, and then Christmas is soon, both money-gifting occasions. He is planning to buy a very expensive piece of film equipment whether he is gifted enough money or not.

Normally I would have probably arranged a small family dinner in a restaurant and helped him plan some kind of travel (perhaps even accompanied him as he's an inexperienced traveler and travel is a little fraught for him, but he has a yen to try it more) . Because neither of those is possible right now, and because he so recently received some money gifts and will again soon for Christmas, giving money doesn't feel very special--though his aunts and I will definitely give him some. He's not a very effusive guy who can feel embarrassed by "silly" activities or demonstrations. I'd love some ideas--large and small--to mark this momentous occasion.
posted by primate moon to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have PBS Passport? For an aspiring filmmaker and traveler, this would be a really nice quarantine gift - it gives access to thousands of archived PBS shows including all their documentaries, all the Ken Burns collection, all the Rick Steves travel stuff, Nature and Nova, etc. We've been doing a lot of "traveling" via PBS and it's... not the same, but still a really nice gift that's a lot of bang for the buck, and you can watch shows together with loved ones over Twitch and talk about them while watching.
posted by juniperesque at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are you able to get onto the platform he games on and connect with his gaming buds and let them know? Or maybe just encourage him to tell his gaming community that he's graduating.

Anecdote I'll never forget: Several years ago I was on a bus, people watching, and the guy in front of me opened some mobile game on his phone. I'm sure there was some built in app function that sent notifications to his gaming group like "it's so and so's birthday, send them a gift," but this guy dutifully opened every message and responded with variants on "thank you for the birthday wishes!" He didn't strike me as the sort of guy who has an easy time out in the world socially, and he was so lit up and clearly touched by these little messages. It really reframed how I view those little insignificant-seeming interactions even on platforms I consider kind of throwaway and silly.

Relationships come in all sizes, and especially for someone with a limited community, an extra little encouragement or kudos from a group like that can mean a whole lot to some folks.
posted by phunniemee at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

He's not a very effusive guy who can feel embarrassed by "silly" activities or demonstrations.

I am an autistic person, though I've only been aware of this fact for less than a year. Let me tell you a story. One year, when I was a kid, my parents arranged for part of the local university marching band to come play music on our street for my birthday. I LOVE that band and I would have LOVED to hear and see them play. But I suffer from acute exposure anxiety and the fact that it was ABOUT ME made it the most awful thing that could possibly have happened. I hated that feeling so much and it was a terrible, awful, excruciating experience. I couldn't even stay for the whole show and went and hid in the back yard. I was very upset. I still remember it vividly, more than 35 years later.

The moral of this story is, don't assume that the kind of celebration you would want is the kind that an autistic person (or frankly, any other person) would want. Ask your son how he would like to celebrate. And don't blow off his feelings! It's hard enough for autistic people to communicate how they feel as it is.
posted by heatherlogan at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

I just want to add that if I had been into gaming at age 22, and my parent had, without my knowledge, told all my gaming friends that I had just succeeded in doing X and they should congratulate me, and I had not chosen to pass along this information myself, I would have been horrified and livid and considered it an unforgivable betrayal of my (fragile) autonomy and a repudiation of any attempts I had made to develop my own relationships on my own terms.
posted by heatherlogan at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2020 [9 favorites]

He is planning to buy a very expensive piece of film equipment whether he is gifted enough money or not.

Hey hey congrats to your son! Don't know how much "very expensive" is in this case, but would it be possible to buy this thing for him, by chipping in with other family members? That would free up his money for other things.

Is that restaurant a favorite one for him? Might it be possible to get a largeish takeout meal from there (or even a weeks' worth of dinners from there if you are feeling splurge-y and that is appropriate).

Did he have a favorite teacher from school who could send a card with some heartfelt wishes in it? (keeping in mind what heatherlogan says above, by all means not if this would be a violation of privacy/trust)

Can you go on a local road trip to some sort of outdoor film viewing experience (I realize this is very unlikely but just in case)?

Does he have a favorite movie or director that you could purchase some sort of set of DVDs from/about? Does he like to watch films and is there a way you could get him a small LED projector so he could play his own films in the house somehow?
posted by jessamyn at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

In the years after I graduated from film school I spent WAY too much money on Criterion Collection DVDs. Luckily since then their collection has been digitized, and you can get access to pretty much everything with a Criterion Channel subscription. It's $99 a year so would fall within your budget, and could be a nice way for him to kind of continue his education.
posted by Mender at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2020 [6 favorites]

Also on the film theme: you can now rent out movie theaters for private showings in some locations. What if the two of you went to a private VIP screening to celebrate?
posted by Mender at 11:39 AM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Today, Netflix released the film Mank. The premise according to Wikipedia is "the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the screenplay for Citizen Kane, as well as his personal relationships with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies." And it's directed by David Fincher (!). Not sure about your son's tastes, but this is an exciting film for me and all the cinephiles in my life.

You could virtually watch Mank as a group using Scener. Perhaps screen it as a double feature with Citizen Kane, which is streaming on HBO Max, and, no doubt, your son had to watch a million times in film school. If you're up for extra credit, read the articles by film critics Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris for more background.

Scener is free. Netflix plans vary in price from $9 to $18 per month, and HBO max is $15 per month. Maybe someone in your family already has accounts with both streaming services? In that case, the entertainment for the celebration would be free.

If it's easier for your son, you could turn your cameras off during the film, but chat for a few minutes with cameras on after the movie is over. And if he's already seen Mank, at least it's something you could ask him about at his party. This suggestion might sound odd, but I think it could fit your son's interests, be an activity you could share, and not be a "'silly' activity or demonstration."
posted by cursed at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2020

Discord party with his gaming friends where they can watch his graduation through screenshare / public link (if that’s possible), and then do a watch party of his favorite films (his friends can stream the films at the same time and they can all be on the same voice channel on Discord)? And then a gaming marathon after (you could maybe foot the bill for some small in-game currency/vouchers/gifts for him and his friends). Just suggesting this since it seems he mainly socializes through gaming.
If the invitation comes from him (rather than you approaching his friends directly as was suggested upthread) and you’re offering game currency/gift codes/special in-game items to him and his friends and let them do their own thing together, that might come across as less helicopter-y and more “cool parent” ish.
posted by aielen at 2:17 PM on December 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

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