Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Change of Clothes

I once joked that, with my luck, my son and I would hit puberty and menopause at the same time.  I really need to be more careful when throwing those ideas out into the universe!

Due to menopause, my body has gone through some interesting changes (see the post "Mom Reset" for details).  At the same time, Liam had his mid-ten-year-old growth spurt, and began to have very clear ideas about what he would and wouldn't wear.  I bought us both some new, better fitting clothes and assembled bags of our used things for the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.

Digging deep into the front closet for out-sized coats, I found a forgotten plastic bin full of hanging files and plastic baggies.  It was the box we hauled to Liam's ABA clinics every month from age three to age eight-and-a-half.  There were sheets to track his programs and Sharpie-labeled bags full of pictures related to people, transportation, school-related objects, actions, gender and more.

Despite the fact that it has only been about three years since we discontinued ABA and began to homeschool Liam, it feels like we have been away much longer.  Or, maybe it's that we've come so far from the thinking we had at the time we started with that therapy.  Much of it had been focused on getting Liam to interact in "an appropriate manner."

When we left therapy and school, we decided to discard the word "appropriate," both in education and in personal development.  In the post "Free Falling,"  I noted how terrifying and liberating that choice had been.  It would take some time of growing into our new life choices, to see how they would fit.

Now, instead of choosing from among those things proscribed by the school district, or the state or the insurance companies, we choose from among those things that make us happy and work for us, as a family. Accepting Liam's growth, as it happens, as a natural consequence of him following his passions, has allowed us to let go of anxiety over where he is, compared to his peers, in education or personal development.

Without that tried-and-true (or not so true, but accepted) road map, we have to find our own way.  We accept that our lives will not be like other lives and we will not celebrate the milestones we were expecting to celebrate.  When I saw my Facebook friends' posts about their children's plans to graduate from 5th grade and go on to middle school, I will admit to a momentary pang of "oh, yeah, Liam would be in that group."  But beyond the image of him in the auditorium, "graduating," there was the memory of the overbearing curriculum, and the knowledge that his peers would soon expect even more of him socially, as they entered the painful middle-school years.

By allowing him to participate only in classes where he has an intense interest, among other homeschooled kids of varying ages, there is a greater deal of acceptance, a joy in learning and budding friendships born of common interest.  He is also developing relationships with clerks and baristas and the staff at the bank, who seem to really enjoy him and even ask after him, if he isn't with me.

As a menopausal woman, it would be foolish for me to expect my body to look like those of the twenty or thirty-somethings that take my spin classes.  I am a fit fifty-two, but I am fifty-two. There's no sense pretending otherwise.  Likewise, it would be a mistake to expect my autistic son to look and behave like someone who is not autistic.  He is sweet, brilliant, funny and talented, but he is autistic.  There's no sense pretending otherwise.

Freedom from expectations has brought a number of changes, but one of the nicest is that we are now much more comfortable in our skin and our clothes.  It just occurred to me that this discovery came, almost to the day, on the third anniversary of our journey.  I can't wait to see what's next.

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