My son brought home a registration booklet for his junior year in high school. In two years, his peers will graduate and move on to start the next chapter of their lives. My son, on the other hand, will have to wait an additional three years. What will he think? Will he realize then just how ‘different’ he is from the others? Will he be hurt, sad?
Last night while lying in bed, I thought back to when I was pregnant with him. What a wonderful time that was. The excitement of having a baby to nurture and raise, filled my soul. Every little milestone, I looked forward to. Then, once he arrived into the world, he struggled to reach them. Why, I wondered. The answer – autism. Some milestones he’s still not reached.
He doesn’t understand what turning 16 years old means, nor what he’s supposed to be doing by this age. Neither do I. Even after being a mother for all these years, I really have no idea what it’s like to be one.
Unlike most moms, I’ve never heard my child call me ‘mom’, such as “Mom, look at this!” He’s never run to me crying, wanting to be held. As a matter of fact, he’s never run to me just wanting to be held. Never, not even as a toddler. Sometimes I would pick him up while he was sleeping, just so I could hold him.
I’ve never seen him jump around with excitement on Christmas morning or on his birthday. He never introduced me to his friends on the playground. He didn’t have any. I never got the chance to be annoyed by him for talking non-stop in the back seat of the car. He’s never told me about the “cool” thing he saw that day, or an event he was looking forward to.
Our conversations, when we have them, are choppy and sometimes exhausting, for both of us. He still struggles to speak in complete sentences and most of the time he can barely be heard. When reading, he still confuses his p’s, d’s and b’s. He can read big words such as ‘contemplation’ sometimes, but misreads simple words like ‘why’ and ‘want’.
Now he’s about to be in 11th grade. I can’t stop thinking that there is so much more I could have done to prepare him. More therapy, more time, more studying. Maybe we should have gone up to the mountains and become shut-ins for a couple of years, just so that he could study non-stop.
I’m afraid of failing him.
I usually act strong and like none of this bothers me. It does. A lot. Just as any parent would, I want him to enjoy all the things that life has to offer. He deserves that. He wants things in life, just like everyone else does.
He wants to have his own place, and get married. Yesterday, he said that he wants to go to college. He wants to be an architect. He has many dreams and goals, but will he reach them? For his sake, I hope so. I don’t want him to miss out on anything, but unfortunately he already has and likely he will again. That’s a fact of life that we have to face, whether we like it or not.
Over the years, I’ve watched him grow in leaps and bounds. My hope is that he will continue to do so, and that by the time he’s 21, he’ll miraculously be caught up. Nothing is impossible. We’ll work together as we always have, and be grateful for every ounce of growth along the way. No one knows what the future will hold. Anything can happen.
Regardless, I just want the best for him, his best. His form of success. Whatever makes him happy. Happiness, a smile on his face – that’s what I want for him.