I took my oldest son back-to-school shopping the other day. It was.... awesome. sad. exciting. funny. inspiring. surprising. mama-heartbreaking.
Big Brother was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2009, when he was eight years old. It was years of evaluations and developmental preschools and speech therapists. Years of teachers bringing their concerns to me and me taking those concerns to doctors and, and, and... years of misdiagnoses. It was years of meltdowns and vomiting and aggression and wondering feet, running feet and hearing him say things like "I'm a bad son. I'm going to let a car hit me," as those feet took him out the front door.
And then that moment, that singular sentence, "Your son is on the spectrum," that changed everything, that changed nothing. That bitter-sweet recognition that he was, in fact, atypical.
And we've had years in between that then and this now where he has had the right intervention and great therapists and over three years of homeschooling. Years in which he has blossomed, learning how to manage his emotions, how to calm his mind, how to control the vomiting. Years in which he has developed into a young man I hardly recognize.
As we went shopping the other night, I asked him which store we should go to. Big Brother replied, "Target. I like the way Target feels." I laughed and inside I was so grateful that he is now at an age when he can express those things so clearly to me. He can tell me that Target feels good and Walmart makes him uncomfortable. Though why it's that way is still hard for him to pinpoint, that he can tell me that and in a calm manner, in casual conversation, is a miracle.
We went down his school list and he didn't argue with me that the list specifically stated "Crayola colored pencils"; he watched me put the cheapest generic brand in the basket without complaint. In fact, he said, "why would anyone buy the others? these are so much cheaper." It made my heart smile. He has learned to see the gray in the world.
On to the clothes. Clothes are still a bit tricky. He will most likely always have sensory issues. And he was irritated with me for making him try them all on. And try them on again. And again. We started in the boys section. The size 18's were too small. We (reluctantly... ok, maybe I was the only one reluctant) moved up to the men's section. The smallest size, 26 x 28, were also too small. I had to buy my 12 year old, men's jeans in size 28 x 30!!!! And my mama-heart broke just a touch, while his grin spread a little further and he settled his voice as low as he could and said, "I'm a man now."
He's been 'practicing' his man voice for the last few weeks. It started when he came home from his first ever scout camp out. It was his first overnighter without family. And I was incredibly nervous, mostly that he'd end up with a migraine from the heat or that he wouldn't be able to sleep. At all. But he came home all in one piece, his voice a little rough from his outdoor frolicking, and his younger brother asked, "did your voice get deeper?" To which Big Brother answered, "Why yes. It did. That's because I'm a man now." Ever since he has been turning on his man voice whenever he's feeling particularly manly. It's awesome.
Two things I never thought Big Brother would do:
love watching fireworks and be a Junior Staff at cub scout day camp.
The first is about invading aliens who, it turns out, are only here to invade our department stores in their search for white undershirts. In the second story, there is a band of sea-loving pirates who kidnap people who hate seafood. They then spend hours forcing seafood down their hatches in an attempt to create a seafood-loving army. The last story (well, the last he's thought of so far) is about a decades long civil war in Japan that all started one night as two brothers fought over the proper way to eat sushi.
I sat in the drivers seat, smiling and trying not to cry, as I wracked my brain trying to remember when his imagination became so unscripted, when he had become so great at communicating his thoughts. Where once there was a boy who only quoted movies and played in pre-scripted worlds and who rarely if ever understood humor, there sat beside me a young man with a brainful of his own invented hilarious happening. When did that happen?
Don't get me wrong, Big Brother is still very much an Aspie. But it seems that he is evolving ever so slowly into his own brand of awesomeness. Which, truth be told, he always was anyway. It was just hard to see past all the vomit and crying. He does still very occasionally toss his cookies at the mention of things like spiders or flies. He does still cringe at the sound of popsicle wrappers and styrofoam. He still can't stand the smell of rice. He can't handle the texture of shredded meat. He still pulls away from unwanted physical touch. He still exhibits the intermittent social faux-pas that is hard to watch. He still misses facial cues and subtle hints that I'm not interested in listening for hours on end about bionicles or sharks or whatever it is he's obsessing over at the moment. But he is beautiful in all his quirkiness, where before it was an exhausting, painful mess.
Have hope, Mamas. They do grow up.