My dearest Justin,
Last week you turned fourteen. It happened to be field day at your school, and your smile when you saw me waiting for you to perform was magnificent.
That smile carries me many days.
I usually have a variety of emotions on your birthday. I always take time to remember the first moment I heard your cry and held you in my arms- my firstborn, bright with promise. It took about three years and a lot of doctors to get you here, and your dad and I were beyond ecstatic when you graced us with your presence. Your arrival made us a family. It launched me into the role I was born into (if you believe in such a thing).
The reason I’m ambivalent on your birthdays has nothing to do with your “label,” or even the dreams I had for you when I was still hosting you. I am mostly past feeling sad that you will never go to college, marry, or enjoy the trappings of a more “conventional life” (whatever that is these days), because in my mother’s heart I know you don’t miss these things. You are truly happy with your DVDs and your YouTube videos of Baby Einstein. When not in the throes of an OCD episode you are blissfully happy.
Most days, it is enough.
No, I’m not ambivalent about your birthdays because of your “now.” I’m ambivalent because of your future. You see, birthday boy, your mom reads a lot, and talks to lots of people about what’s coming down the pike as you enter your transition years.
By the way, just yesterday you were snuggled into a perfect fit in my arms, so how did this happen?
Some people call post-21 the cliff.
Some say they’ve been able to create fulfilling lives for their adult autistic children.
I want you to know with every inch of my soul I’m shooting for the latter.
I also want you to know that last week I did something different- I pushed the ambivalence down and lived in the moment (!) and just reveled in who you are, did not imagine who you will be or what will happen to you.
I’m very, very proud of myself.
You are strong, mercurial, funny, kind, smart, and abundantly affectionate.
Your hugs are the best thing in the universe.
I love you at every core of my being, and I will fight for you with my last breath.
You are my heart.
Happy birthday to my not-so-much-a-boy anymore.
I love you.
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