I went to the Future Fair at my autistic son’s school last Thursday and I came to a disturbing realization about myself.
I’ve been living in a state of unreality, when it comes to him, for the last 18 years.
I have a 14-year-old son who is ADHD but otherwise “normal”. I think about his future frequently, or at least every time I see his report card. What is he going to do when he grows up? I don’t worry too much about it just yet – he’s only in junior high school, after all. Next year, the year before he starts high school, we’ll start thinking and discussing more seriously about his future.
But my 18-year-old is another story. He is mildly autistic. But I seldom thought about his future. It was always kind of like it was never going to come. He wasn’t going to grow up, but just be there. Be my scrawny, creative, long-haired, Star Wars obsessed boy, living under my roof until I die. He’s my first-born. I lived in a state of unreality even back then. I’m pretty sure he was already 2 years old by the time I realized that there were no parents coming to pick him up. He was staying and living with me forever. Being my first-born, his birthday’s depress me. How could he be 18 already? I only gave birth to him last week! But now he’s as tall as me and needs a shave. But still, I never thought of his future ever coming.
And now, it’s not only come. It’s staring me in the face and it’s HUGE!
I do have some excuses for my lack of coherence. I was ill and overwhelmed throughout most of his life while I was a single mother. I couldn’t keep on top of anything. Then I got remarried and the number of kids I had to worry about more than doubled.
Are these valid excuses? As a reader who knows nothing about the last 20 years of my life, no. I didn’t go into detail here, it would take a book (that may someday come) to give those details. But even knowing those details doesn’t necessarily make those excuses valid either.
I’ve failed in many ways as a mother to my sons. But there are places I know I’ve succeeded.
I’ve failed my oldest by not planning for his future. But I did him right, by working with him and getting him into the right schools. I think it’s fair to say that I had a small hand in how far he’s come from when he was younger.
I’ve failed my younger son by expecting more than is maybe fair because he is not like his brother. But I think I’ve done him right by being honest about myself – he is my carbon copy after all – hoping to teach him from my mistakes.
I admit I’m afraid. I was overwhelmed before, but now I’m overwhelmed again by all I have to do for my 18-year-old. There’s so much information I have to get together to submit to certain programs that I don’t know where to start.
I’ve often said to people who have just had a baby to enjoy them while they’re young, because they grow up so fast.
I’m realizing the truth of that now more than ever.