Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Encouragement from a Teenage Mom


Much to the boys' displeasure, they attended a dinner etiquette class on Sunday (writing about the experience for my local magazine).


It actually ended up being really fun.  It was a "backwards" dinner.  The food was served in reverse order:  dessert first!  The utensils were mixed up and the boys had to put them back in the proper place.


Manners faux pas: elbows on the table!


I'm not sure they've mastered the art of selecting the proper utensils, but I think they gained a few practical pointers.



Santa even joined them for dinner!


Collin looked dapper for his Christmas concert!


Best picture I could snag of Cooper's speaking part on stage.


I blinked and he turned into a teenager!


No shirt required for birthday breakfast!


In my mind, he's still this age!

Around 3 in the morning, I heard a rapping on my door.  I stumbled to the door with sleep clouding my eyes and tried to focus on the figure standing in front of me.  Collin outstretched his arms to pull me into an embrace.  He whimpered, "I had a bad dream.  It was about zombies."

Truthfully, I would normally find this annoying.  I'm one who jealously protects her sleep and doesn't welcome interruptions.  But this was different.  Even in my half-lucid state, I knew this was a fleeting moment.  My days where little boys seek a safe haven from bad dreams in their mother's arms are dwindling.

Caleb turns 13 today.  We officially have our first teenager in the house.  I finally understand those old women in the grocery store who used to look longingly at my babies bundled in their car seats.  They repeated the same phrase with identical levels of sincerity. "It goes so fast," they whispered with a smile that seemed to mask a level of sadness.  I'd always return the smile and pleasantries while internally disputing the fact that the whirlwind daily demands of caring for a baby (and toddler) moved quickly.

But the days did go fast, and the years even quicker.  And today I woke up with a teen.

Oldest children are parents' guinea pigs, they say.  I believe it.  We've learned and grown up along side him.  I think Caleb didn't want us to become too comfortable in our role, and so God gave us a child that pushed us onto our knees in prayer for him over and over again.

When I think about Caleb as a baby and a toddler, I'm filled with a mixture of emotions.  I remember those days where the most important thing we did was pace the driveway in search of interesting insects.  At the time, I found those days to be mundane.  Now, they seem refreshing (days without being in the car all night!).  

But, I also remember Caleb as a toddler who had absolutely no tether or allegiance to his mother in any situation.  I would turn my back on him and he would flee.  Who knew two year olds were so quick?

He also exhibited numerous challenges and idiosyncrasies at a young age.  At seven years old, he earned an autism diagnosis.  This was one of the hardest moments of our lives.  The "A" word was terrifying.  I was most prone to uncontrollable sobs when I speculated on his future.  I wondered what would Caleb look like as a teenager?  As a young adult?  We spent years in therapies, social skills classes, and doctor visits (many still ongoing).

I'm emotional today becauase Caleb is a teenager, and....he looks great.  God is good!  His diagnosis never changed.  He still faces many challenges, but so many things about his life are even better than I imagined they would ever be.

He has friends.  A whole group of them!  They dialogue with terms I know nothing about (video game lingo), but they are like-minded and kind to their cores.  And, most importantly, they love my son.  

He adores music.  When he plays the trumpet, I see how God gave him this strength.  This summer, he even played a solo at Butler Band Camp.  As I listened to him belt out the notes, I had a pride that bubbled up in my chest and a gratefulness that spread out in an endless smile.  

He's funny in a way that's advanced for his age.  Adults marvel at the words that slip from his lips (while many of his peers scratch their heads at his banter).  

Personally, I love his dry wit and listening to him rattle on about the variation of reptiles and the malaria crisis in third world countries.  He can recite a million and one facts about anything and everything.  As one who harbors an inner nerd, I find these statistics endlessly fascinating.

He is an individual, with absolutely no qualms about how he differs from his peers.  His confidence in his uniqueness inspires me to be confidence in mine.

I write this as a love letter to my son, but also as an encouragement to any reader in cyberspace who is struggling with fear on how their child with an autism diagnosis will emerge into teenagedom.  My advice?  Get interventions early.  Embrace the child God so graciously gave you.  Pray for strength and wisdom in parenting this child.  And most importantly, enjoy the days.  

They truly move quickly.


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