I wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. I tiptoe past my son’s bedroom, but in spite of it being about two in the morning, he is awake.
“Mommy!” I hear him whisper.
I go in, thankful that he finally understands the importance of not talking out loud while the family is sleeping. As I tuck him in, he reaches a hand up and touches my face.
“Lie down with Mommy on the bed,” he says, in his peculiar speech pattern and his even more peculiar voice that is teetering between boy and man registers.
Knowing that he will not get to sleep again without a cuddle, I promise to be back. I quickly use the bathroom, return to my son’s room and lie down beside him. We lie there for maybe a minute before he whispers again.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too,” I reply.
“Good night. Have beautiful dreams,” he mumbles, giving me a gentle but unmistakable shove. By the time I’m walking out of his room, he is fast asleep.
As I make my way to my own bed, I think about my son, about how far he has come and how far he still needs to go. He is twelve years old now, sprinting down the home stretch toward his teenage years. Nine years ago, almost to the day, he was diagnosed with autism.
Back then, when he was almost four, the only functional words in his vocabulary were “juice” and “pee”. He needed assistance with every single aspect of his daily living – toileting, getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth. Grocery store meltdowns were common, and washing my son’s hair could reduce him to a state of terror. Haircuts were absolutely out of the question.
Today, my son talks. Not a lot – not enough to have more than the most rudimentary of conversations – but he talks. He makes requests using full sentences, complete with “please” and “thank you”. He expresses emotions and makes jokes. He can pick out his own clothes, take a shower more or less by himself and even washes his hair. He hates it, but he understands that it has to be done. He can have haircuts now, even though I am the only one who can administer them and he keeps bunching his shoulders up.
As I look at him now and try to see into the future, I have no way of knowing what he will be capable of nine years from now. On the one hand, I don’t see him being able to live independently. He still lacks many life skills and, like many people with autism, he does not have an innate sense of danger and he does not know how to keep himself safe.
On the other hand, nine years ago I would not have foreseen the progress that he has made up to this point. I would not have thought that a kid who once had two usable words would be saying things like, “Have beautiful dreams”. So who knows what another nine years will bring?
We will only find out by continuing to steer him out of his comfort zone and into unknown territory.
How do you deal with challenges faced by your child? Do you wonder what your kids’ futures look like?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.