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Growing Up

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Justin BD 2016 Scouts 044

This weekend a momentous event occurred, not one with trumpets and flashing lights, but momentous all the same.

The truth is, if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have missed it.

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My beautiful boy turned thirteen last week, and as usual we had a zillion parties for him (okay, three), including his family party on Saturday. I will share with you that although we’ve tried, in the past the boys’ birthday parties have not always been the joyous events I conjured up in my mind years prior to giving birth (then again, most of our moments with them do not exactly match what I conjured up before their births).

There was the party where despite giving Justin a “big brother gift” he still wanted to open all of Zach’s presents (and trust me, not one of them was enticing to him).

There was the party where my boy had an epic meltdown for a reason we still can’t discern today, and we had to carry him protesting to his room (that quieted the house). Amidst our struggles there was always joy (I love birthdays so much there always has to be at least one moment), but often Jeff and I were left exhausted at the end of a celebration, faced with at least one unhappy child and a mountain of dirty plates that looked as if it would never go away (hell, who’s a fan of dirty dishes anyway?) More often than not we were mostly relieved our little birthday parties were over, knowing we’d have a breather until next year.

This past weekend was different. For the first time there was not one single crisis, no pouting, no tears. Both Jeff and I actually talked to our relatives, ate too many appetizers, and had an amazing time.

But the big moment, the one I actually noticed while simultaneously talking to people/eating too much/remembering to get my camera was when I told Justin it was time to open presents, and he came into a room laden with gifts. This year, he just walked over to a chair, sat down, and waited to be presented with his stash.

He was so grown up he literally took my breath away.

I’m trying so hard to recognize these moments, to tuck them away for if/when times get difficult again, to bring them out and revel in them even when things are good. If two years ago someone had told me my son would be patient (and happy!) while opening his birthday presents I would have laughed. If someone had told me eight years ago my son would be potty trained I would have laughed even harder (and ate some more chocolate.) Going back even farther, if someone had told me I’d once again sleep through the night (or what passes for sleeping through the night for an almost fifty-year-old woman) I would have yawned, then thrown my arms around said person in a primal hug.

There’s no snark where sleep is concerned.

The truth is, I keep hearing about the “post-21 cliff” and the “terrible teens,” but honestly, things just keep getting easier in our home. My eldest son has truly grown into his own skin, surmounted many of his sensory and communication issues, learned to soak in and enjoy the world around him. He is a predominantly joyous, peaceful child.

This is not to say we don’t have our moments. The OCD is still a struggle, and when we don’t understand him confusion and frustration reign for all.

But I will honestly tell you those moments are now few and far between, and we’ve created an ever-strengthening co-existence in which my boy is happy, and I feel sane, and whole.

It’s getting better, and it’s not just chez McCafferty. I’ve seen this peacefulness occur in many of my friends’ households, friends whose children presented staggering challenges mere years ago.

Things are getting better. And I’m so grateful I feel we’re really enjoying our lives, not going through the motions of just getting through the day.

And for me, that’s better than trumpets and flashing lights any day.

For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com

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