Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Milestones are Getting Bigger

My youngest child is at her senior prom. I'm at a local pub not drinking, eating good pub food and I'm desperately hoping she's having fun.

She'll never know how beautiful she is, not just to me but to everyone who sees her. I wonder if it scared her a little to see herself in makeup, with her hair up, in a formal floor-length gown. It didn't scare me. I see her as a incredible young lady whether she's dressed up or she's in grubby jeans and a stained sweater.

Meanwhile my eldest child is finding out about the work world in a way that no one likes to learn--through the frustrating process of endless job hunting in a bad economy, where people with no experience are forced to compete with people who are overqualified and desperate for any kind of income. And he's met someone his age. A couple of years older, actually, but how different she must seem from his high school friends. She has a job, is old enough to drink ... yeah.

I seldom thought this far ahead when I had kids, and I only could think that way in unfocused abstracts, especially since we had autistic kids. I think that turned into such a blessing in so many ways. I was never tempted to pigeonhole them or force them onto a track. Everything was up for grabs. Would they go to college? That was nothing--I wondered if they'd be able to make friends. Would they participate in team sports? Let's just worry about whether they would be able to stay in a mainstream school.

I don't think I ever set the bar low, or decided that they couldn't do anything they wanted. They did surprise me a lot, but that doesn't mean I didn't think they were capable. It was always about what they wanted to strive for, and I was never sure what they would want to do with the resources they had within themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

My kids taught me how to be a supportive parent by unveiling the difficulties and exceptional capabilities given to people born with autism-spectrum stuff. If they'd been born 'normal' I wonder if I might not have turned out to be a crummy parent, that terrible combination of helicopter and controlling that only allowed them to be all they could be as long as that being was within the realms of my vision for them. I did too much of that as it stands. But they didn't, and I had to immediately let go of any kind of planned future for them.

And that turned out to be a very good thing. I'm not going to stress about my daughter going to the prom without a date or a gaggle of friends. She wanted to go to the prom, and she went by herself, and I did everything I could to make her prom night special within the context of her desires. Just between us, I'm proud of her, because I wanted to go alone but I chickened out and went with someone I didn't like so I could conform. Unlike me when I was her age, she is a true individual, and her high school class is full of like-minded kids. Amazing. I doubt they will bat an eye at her showing up by herself.

I'm not going to stress about my son not finding work either. He's taking a community college course on his own dime and looking and learning and discovering so much about what happens to a plan when it meets up with the real world. There's time yet to learn about how to work at a real paying job. Right now he's in the middle of plenty other lessons, and I can see his mind spinning and working and going into overdrive trying to figure out how to make things work. Part of that learning will involve trying to hold onto or fall back onto old habits that made life comfortable for him at home, and figuring out how well those habits serve him now.

None of this is about me, of course. But I'm going through a process too, not so much of letting go but seeing my children in a whole new way. Not as independent beings--they've always been that--but as rapidly changing beings. Like seeds growing into trees, they stay little for such a long time, and though they're growing at the same rate on a cellular level they seem to suddenly explode into so many branches and leaves that it's beyond counting.

I finally get to see them as the trees, and not just an assortment of leaves and twigs that I feed and water and nurture as best I can.

And that's a very awe-inspiring thing.

1 comment:

Molly said...

post prom pictures? please?