A couple of weeks ago, I went shopping with one of my best friends. We have known each other for at least 30 years. We were college roommates our entire time in school. We got married days apart and had our first sons only months apart.
As time moved forward, my son Aaron started showing signs of what we later learned was autism. My friend’s son was neurotypical, no issues to speak of. We never lived close together. Her husband was in the military so they moved often. When we did have opportunities to spend together, our sons would play together….and you could tell there was a difference in the two of them. But my girlfriend never said anything nor did her son. It was during these times I would wish Aaron was more attentive during play time, more language savvy.
Fast forward a few years and our sons were graduating high school. Each family prepared for post secondary life. In my mind, Aaron would attend college, get his degree, find a good job and move into his own place. After all, that’s what the plan was, right? But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Meanwhile, my friend’s son finished college, joined the reserves and found a great job working for the government.
I have to say my friend has in no way ever made me feel negatively about Aaron or our lives. She’s always been supportive, always prayed for us and has always been a member of our village. But I will be honest, as her son succeeded and Aaron struggled, part of me was sad. What I saw her son doing, I wanted for Aaron.
But you know what? I had to learn to ask Aaron what he wants for himself. And be supportive of his answer. I had to learn how to let go of MY dreams for Aaron and embrace HIS dreams for himself. And Aaron is happy. He has a job he loves and has found purpose and meaning in his life. So as my friend and I sat and discussed her son’s upcoming home purchase and nuptials, I wasn’t sad. I didn’t wish Aaron was getting married too. I did think about him getting his own place though. I want to help him pick out his furniture when or if that time comes.
When I returned home from visiting my girlfriend, I asked my hubby Paul had he ever thought about Aaron moving out. He answered, “No not really. Aaron can stay as long as he wants to.” I asked Aaron a couple of days later if he ever thought about moving out. His response was very honest and “Aaron like” – “I do think about it Mom and I do want to, but I’m not ready just yet. Do you want me to move out?” That question led to a great discussion about independence, our unconditional love and support and him knowing he has a home until he wants a new one.
To my fellow spectrum moms out there, don’t feel guilty about your feelings. It’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, or confused about your child’s diagnosis and life. But you can’t stay in those emotional states. Focus on your child’s strengths, build a supportive village, and move forward.
Peace and Blessings,