Today is the Day

Today is The Boy’s last day of 8th grade, of middle school, of being anything but a teenager. He’s excited. I’m excited. We’re all excited. And a little wistful, too. Even The Boy exclaims, “How did we get here?” and “How did this happen?” I tell him time flies, and if you blink, you miss it. I tell him all those old cliches, those that have been around so long they must be true. It sure feels that way.

Where is the 5 pound 6 ounce baby I was holding in my arms yesterday?

Where is the toddler who got away from me in the department store and hid in the middle of a clothes rack?

Where is the preschooler who couldn’t wait for the water to warm up to get into the small pool we had bought, and whose smiling lips turned blue?

Where is the 2nd grader who kicked his classmates?

Where is the 4th grader who sang the Star Spangled Banner at the high school football game with his choir?

Where is my 7th grader who began to have crushes on girls?

Who is this extra man in my house who is taller than me, requires shaving at regular intervals, and has hands and feet bigger than his dad’s? Who can barely fit on the couch if he stretches out on it? Who “practices” driving every time we get into the car?

Ah, yes. He’s my son, even though I can’t possibly be old enough for it to be true. My son. And me over here? The one with a bit of dust in her eye? I’m one proud mom.

finding our own path

 

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Is It Time to Let Go of Santa?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that The Boy turns 14 this week.  Still not quite sure how that is freakin’ possible, but apparently it’s true. And while he is asking for things like cell phones for his birthday and Christmas, he is still asking Santa.

This past weekend, we went to a Christmas Supper hosted by our local chapter of the Autism Society of America. It was pretty chaotic, and I’m not sure I could do that more than once a year, but a highlight of the evening for the kids was that there was a very real-looking Santa there to whom they could speak and with whom they could get pictures. He also handed out gifts to all of the kiddos.

Mr_Santa_Claus_(HS85-10-30308)When The Boy went up to retrieve his, he brought along his list (on his iPad) and proceeded to tell Santa about all of the other things he wanted in addition to the gift he was getting, and for which he was being prompted to say thank you. Very Real-Looking Santa didn’t look all that patient or impressed, which was cringe-inducing. And I started to think that maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to find a way to explain to The Boy that this little piece of fantasy isn’t quite true.

The reality is, he will be in high school next year, and he is already different enough. We have to fight for so much here, and even though he is accepted by his peers, it continues to be more like “tolerated” than “invited over to do fun things.” And while I want him to be comfortable in his own skin, I don’t want him to be sheltered just because he can. Because then, in some way, I’m using the autism to keep him little. He’s innocent enough on his own, I think, which is a whole ‘nother set of worries.

I’ll add it to the list of things we need to work on/approach after the holidays…

Halloweekend from Hell

Halloween was never my favorite holiday as a kid, but my kid loves it, so it’s been much more fun over the past fourteen years. We are getting to the point where the trick or treating should probably be winding down, but hasn’t, and I don’t quite have the heart to force the issue.

This weekend, the issue is compounded because of too many opportunities.

Tonight, the high school band is hosting a party to which the 8th grade band members have been invited. I thought maybe this is the one thing we could skip this weekend, but The Boy has other ideas.

HalloweekendSaturday evening, we plan to take him trick or treating in another neighborhood.  He definitely won’t give this up.

Sunday evening, his best buddy who is now at the high school is hosting his annual haunted house, and he looks forward to this all year.

Three days in a row and the weekend is shot.  I was aiming for compromise and maybe doing to out of three, but I lost the fight, and since Halloween is for the kids, that’s ok. Plus he is actually choosing to do social stuff, and how can I say no to that?

But Mom definitely gets a weekend off next weekend!

The Ex, Fall Plans, and a Boy Growing Up

DCP_0407When the ex cancelled his summer visitation, he said he planned to come and visit The Boy this fall some time, and then asked about Christmas.  At the time, I reminded him that he had had The Boy last Christmas, which would mean he would have him for Thanksgiving this year, instead, and then possibly the week after Christmas if we could work it out. He agreed, and said he would let me know about fall plans.

Tomorrow, October begins, and I doubt the visit here will happen. In fact, he texted the other day to explain why we hadn’t received child support in a month, and to reiterate that he was “working on” Thanksgiving. No mention of the previous plan to visit here sometime this fall.

The Boy has been through this enough to know that what his dad says will happen rarely does, but he still hopes. When I remind him that we’ll have to wait and see what happens, “I know, I know, I know,” he says, and goes right on hoping. Usually.

Fast forward to this past weekend. It was a rough one, because the girl upon whom The Boy has a crush was absent Friday. As you well know, when someone is absent from school, it is a sign that the end is nigh, and we all run around screaming at the sky because she has moved away, we will never see her again, and why bother doing anything because there’s no point.

The Man and I were doing our best to cheer him up, offering fun things to do, and being generally silly, when suddenly, The Boy piped up from the backseat of the car (always conversing in the car), “I have an idea!” Usually this means he is starting to come around, starting to make everything ok in his own mind, but this time it was actually a real idea. “We can go to Myrtle Beach and ride the go-karts, and I don’t mind missing school to do that.”

Wait, what?

Did he just say he was ok with missing school? This kid? The one I have had to beg and plead with doctors and dentists for the past eight years just to find appointments close to the end of the school day so I wouldn’t be reminded fortnightly of that one day in February of 2006 when he had to miss school??

But he wasn’t finished.

“And if my dad can’t have me for Thanksgiving weekend, we could even go then!”

He actually vocalized himself that his dad’s plans would most likely fall through. And made a back up plan of his own to deal with it.

I think my little boy is growing up.

*tear*

Delayed Gratification and Rewards in Autism

The Boy loves his iPadRewards and Motivators are how we roll in autism land.  If you want Bucky to do his math work, you gotta give him something in return.  That’s just how it works.  Whether it’s a break, a walk, a starburst, a handful of goldfish… whatever works, baby.

Fast forward to an adult on the spectrum trying to find meaningful employment, whatever that looks like.  Hopefully it is something s/he is interested in, but if not, how does it work?  Bucky wouldn’t do his math without a starburst, so will his employer ply him with starburst to get him to work as an adult?

My kiddo doesn’t understand money, and more than just the concept that it doesn’t grow on trees.  He has a hard time counting change, and instead has been taught that if he is at the store and needs to pay $4.88, he should give the cashier a five dollar bill.  He doesn’t really grasp that $150 to fix an iPad screen is a hell of a lot of money. And even though he understands that you need money to buy things, he doesn’t understand needs versus wants, and if left to his own devices, might very well decide to purchase another 3DS game rather than pay a phone bill.

He will need some assistance, and that is obvious.  But he will also need some motivation to do his job.  Therefore, as we look forward to transitioning (I know we have several years, but it’s good to be aware of where we are and where we’ll need to be), we will have to work on making sure the things we use to motivate him are growing like he is.  And we will have to work on the delay in gratification, because one does not receive a paycheck every minute, hour, or day.

This is the type of thing that isn’t intuitive for me, and that I will have to train myself to work on with him.  Everything is a process with autism.  Everything.  And nothing goes in a straight line.  A convoluted process, I guess.  We learn everyday, we fail everyday, and we try everyday.  Now to develop a plan…

Eleven and a Half

Twenhofel Middle SchoolEleven and a half is such a strange age.  He seems like a giant, adult-like person from a distance, and then I get closer (sometimes only when he’s sleeping), and he seems like such a little child, albeit in a body that is almost as tall as mine.

And his actions and emotions are equally dichotomous – sometimes very mature and sober, and others toddler-like and silly.  I’m sure I have a wistful, “Where did my baby go?” face, because he catches me looking at him and puts on his, “Mom, you’re looking at me weird” face.

The specter of Middle School is hitting me, because I am going to attempt to register him today.

Am I ready for this?  Is he?  It doesn’t matter because it’s happening whether we want it to or not.  He wants it to, and I…  I just want him to be happy and productive.  How many middle schoolers does that describe?  How many people want to re-live the good old days of middle school?  Very few.  I have a bit of experience with it after having taught there for almost half my life, and it is a struggle (at least in some fashion) for the great majority of the population.

I worry.  And I miss my baby.  And change is hard.  But he and I are strong people, and together with The Man, we’ll get through it.  Somehow.

Sometimes Still My Little Boy

There are still cuddly days, thank goodness. Today was one. He seemed excited to see me at pick up, and almost shared something that sounded like a good thing. I couldn’t quite get it out of him. I read (in his communication log) he had had an excellent day, and he seemed excited about dissecting owl pellets in class, and even made a connection to the book they are reading that has an owl as a main character. I had recently seen an owl webcam online, and showed it to him when we got home. He snuggled in next to me on the chair, and we watched for quite awhile.  When I closed the browser window, he noticed that I had been previewing a cartoon DVD for school, full of old-school cartoons. He asked to watch it, and we spent the next hour nestled together in a blankie, watching Tom & Jerry, and Sylvester & Tweety. It was a fantastic afternoon!

I know these times will come fewer and farther between, so I am so happy when something like this happens out of the blue.  My little boy is growing up!

The Curse (or is it Gift?) of the Middle School Teacher

After teaching middle schoolers for almost half my life, I can see what kids will look like as teenagers.  If I really look at a child that still has some baby fat, baby teeth, braces, and that awkward, gawky way of trying to hold their body just so, I can picture him or her after 4 years or so, taller, more self-assured, straighter teeth.

I looked at The Boy today and realized he is no longer a boy.  He is quickly on his way to becoming a teen.  He had just woken up, and was still a little out of it, staring into space, allowing me a moment to really study him.  And I blinked, looked at the pictures all around us in our living room, at that little boy in kindergarten, then after he’d lost a few teeth, looking like that beautiful, typical American boy…  “Where did my baby go?” I said.  “He’s in the pictures, Mom,” The Boy replied as I hugged him tight.  I watched him amble off, down the hall, and I pictured him, taller, broader shoulders, and a little more self-assured (I mean, after all, he can even make his own bagels, now!), and I had two simultaneous emotions: sadness that I’m losing my little boy, and hope for the man he will become.

And here come the tears…

breakfast