Adam is 13 today. I now have 3 teenagers. I have to continually repeat this to myself for I often wonder how the heck this happened so quickly. But then again, the time that it took to get here seems like an eternity.
In some ways, having teen aged children seems like an ‘old hat’. I’ve enjoyed every minute of preparing for homecoming dances, prom, and first dates. I’ve survived driver’s education, passing the driver’s test and taking the car out for the first time. I have even survived a first ‘accident’. I’m muddling through puberty and so far, am fairly unscathed. College applications are just around the corner , but I’m feeling confident, watching my daughter navigate the process, following her lead, while standing on the sidelines giving her my full support. So far, so good.
Yesterday, I asked Adam what he wanted to do on his birthday. He already told me weeks ago that he wanted to go to ‘The Friday’s Restaurant’ for dinner, but I always like to take my kids to do something special, for I truly believe that an experience, rather than something material will be remembered long after their birthday is over. This past year, we took Lacey to a concert. Alex just saw Hamilton. And Adam, this year has chosen…the car wash.
I am not surprised, for in some ways, he is a pretty simple kid. He goes to bed by 8:30 pm. On most days, he wakes up by 6:30 am. He keeps his room in order; although, the ‘order’ may only make sense to him. He can always find his things, for he puts them in the same spot every time. His Lego helicopters are placed and labeled in various places in his room. He even has a certain color that he wears for each day of the week.
Not too long ago, I was going through a mountain of pictures, which at one time were intended for Pintrest worthy scrapbooks. It was on this day, that I realized, once an for all, that this will never happen. I could barely narrow down the exact year most of these photos were taken. Much to my amusement, however, it occurred to me that I could narrow down the exact day that the picture was taken based on the color of shirt that Adam was wearing. I was suddenly grateful for his extreme rigidity; for most of the time, I roll my eyes.
And as simple as he can be, he can be equally as complicated. I look back on the years of medical specialists, infections, surgeries, sleepless nights, and battles with the education system. I reflect on the amount of experts that gave us their ‘professional’ opinion ‘preparing’ us for the things that he would never do. And I look back on the immeasurable amount of time that we invested into finding the appropriate resources to prove all that we knew that Adam was capable of.
I always find it interesting when my friends lament on how they wish their kids were young again. How they miss the ‘good ‘ole days’. I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t feel the same. I don’t miss the days when Adam was younger, for at times, it felt like we were living in hell. I would not, however, change my life for anything. I would not change my son for anything, for Adam has taught me more about patience, persistence, faith, and resilience, than anyone else ever could.
But today , my ‘hat’ feels a bit unfamiliar, it feels a bit different. I am about to prepare for homecoming dances, prom from a different vantage point…autism. Will there be a first date? Only time will tell.
And then there is driver’s education. Adam’s plan of getting his permit when he is 15 and getting his driver’s license when he is 16 may follow a slightly different time line. But I have full confidence that he will be behind that wheel some day. The one thing that I do know for sure… His grand plan of getting a blue Corolla for his 16th birthday, is not going to happen.
Then there’s puberty. We are only on the outskirts of that phase. If I could find a way catapult right past the next 2 years, I would.
And I’m excited to see what college brings. I continue to hear about phenomenal post secondary programs for individuals with autism.
But for now, I will focus on day one of the teen years with autism. I’m fairly certain that I’m in for quite the ride!