Tuesday, June 15, 2010

turning 5

I first noticed that I was having a hard time with Andrew's upcoming birthday when one day at the playground I overheard Dave tell another parent that Andrew was almost 5. My stomach dropped. I couldn't believe he just said that. My first impulse was to pull him aside and tell him that Andrew is still 4 and a half. Don't tell people he's almost 5!

But, luckily I caught myself. I didn't say anything. Instead I filed away that internal response so I could take another look at it later.

A few weeks ago in church one of the moms asked how I felt about Andrew turning 5. And my eyes welled up. Tears started streaming down my face. I stood there shocked and embarrassed at my reaction. I had no idea that those tears were hiding in there and I was so embarrassed that they surfaced.

But, the truth is, I'm heartbroken.

See, I know 5 year olds. I know what they are suppose to be like, how they talk, what kinds of things they say, how they act. In my years as a Kindergarten teacher I worked with hundreds of 5 year olds. It's a group I know well.

Which means, I can see clearly, now more than ever, how Andrew is not your typical 5 year old.

At 2 and 3 and even 4 I couldn't really see it. I mean, I had my suspicions. I could see that he wasn't talking or interacting as much as other kids his age. But, I didn't have to see it if I didn't want to. I could hide behind lots of "well, so-in-so is just really verbal...it's not fair to compare Andrew to him!" Plus, most people don't notice anything amiss with Andrew at all. I could just play along with them. Nothing was amiss.

But it's getting harder and harder to play along. I can see it. I can see that he's not developing typically. That he has enormous needs. I can see that when someone asks him a question and he doesn't respond at all, that that's not normal. I can see that when his impulsivity and distactability makes simple tasks a nightmare...that that's not normal either.

And frankly, it breaks. my. heart.

It doesn't seem to bother Dave at all. I hold conformity as a good idea, an important tool, a goal. Dave thinks conformity is hogwash. The same things that break my heart give Dave joy. Dave is a-okay with Andrew being atypical. And I like that. I like that Dave holds that view. It's important for me to see that. And it's important for Andrew to see that too. It's absolutely okay to be atypical. There is nothing wrong with Andrew. It's not wrong to be different.

And even though I can see that Andrew's language and social skills are behind his peers, I can see that he has his strengths too. If Andrew were going to be entering my Kindergarten class this fall (hypothetically speaking of course...I won't be teaching this fall), he would be one of the more advanced readers and writers. He wouldn't be top of the class, but he would up there. I do think Andrew would be top of the class in math. I can only think of one student that I had in my 5 years of teaching that understood numbers the way Andrew does. And that student had Asperger's Syndrome.

Andrew still has not been officially diagnosed. We took him to a Specialist in March and she wanted to give him more time before she gave him a diagnosis. And honestly, the world of diagnoses, especially for autistic spectrum disorders is currently in flux. The books are being rewritten as we speak, which for a mama that likes nice, clean answers, is a little frustrating.

The bottom line is and has always been that Andrew will be fine. He will probably go to college, have a family, have a good, stable job. Hopefully he will share his gifts and bring joy and knowledge where ever he goes. He already has.

But, the bottom line is also that all of this is hard for me. Hard in that good way that getting your heart broken is hard. It's made me grow. It's made me a better mama. I don't regret any of this. I wouldn't trade Andrew for a minute. Not one minute. I love him, love him, love him. And perhaps that is exactly why I am this heartbroken.


debs14 said...

The spectrum for these special kids is so wide and Andrew will grow to cope with many of the things he struggles with at the moment. When I see pictures of him I see a happy, loved and loving little boy with a great personality. A real cheeky little five year old. My friend specialises in teaching autistic children and with the right help at school and support at home, they can achieve so much. It's just that they have different needs to others. You will play to Andrew's strengths and help him cope with things he is weaker with. I work in a secondary school and see a few autistic kids in most year groups. Thankfully the schools are quick to identify their special needs nowadays. They all reach their targets and many go onto university.
There must be times when you feel discouraged, and it's important to acknowledge those times, but there are so many achievements to celebrate. And those celebrations will soon outweigh the other times.

Melissa said...

Such a revealing, touching, moving post. I love your honesty here, and even more, I love how it expresses your deep love for Andrew. You are such a good mom for him. The best.

And, by the way, what is that delicious treat!?

Ruth said...

Robyn, I don't have any answers for you, but I am sending you a huge cyber hug from across the Pond. I am having the same fears for DS, no-else "sees" it and everyone keeps telling me that he is fine ~ I'm just not convinced. And, meanwhile we wait ... appointments for Child Services are so slow.

Plume said...

Your post has me with a knot in my throat, as you're expressing feelings I too am going through with my son. Although not completely comparable since my kid is only almost two, meaning it could be just the two's creeping in or really something deeper, but we're still in the checking and diagnosis stage, but it's really breaking my heart.

I, as well, see a great child in your Andrew, and an even greater mom in you, and he will definately grow to lead a wonderful life. Good things are coming, you just wait an see! (Well, I'm pretty sure you know that, ha!)

tami said...

this is such a touching, heartfelt post. and to think the example of your love is just a glimpse of how much God loves his children.

thank you for sharing. :)

Kirsten said...

You made me all teary.

Mama V said...

Oh man, there's just so much about parenting that means heartbreak and heartache. But it sounds like you and Dave together make a great combination for showing unconditional love to help Andrew thrive and shine. He's one lucky chap!

Goes On Runs said...

you are wise. mama v said it well.... what a great team you and dave are...how lucky he is; how lucky you are to be his mom. amazing what we learn from them, huh?!

Ladkyis said...

He has the best Mom and Dad in his world. He has a delightful brother. He is secure in the love that surrounds him, his world is perfect. You can't make it any more perfect so stop worrying about what might be. Enjoy! you are doing a fantasic job as Andrew and Isaac's Mom.
~wipes the tears from her eyes and makes a cup of tea~

Goodyreid said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again; Andrew was born to the right parents.

Thanks for your honesty Robyn. I think truth-telling about parenting is really important.

erin said...

I want to second all the wonderful comments already here. You and Dave are just the right parents for Andrew. I love every post you write that features his conversation. The way his mind works is amazing and the world needs minds like his. I agree with Ladkyis, you have made his world perfect with your love, care, thoughfulness, and playfulness. What a blessed little boy! Remember how much his services have already helped. That is not going to stop. How exciting year 5 is going to be as he learns more about friendship and navigating the social maze. You have given him the best equipment possible. You are an attentive, available, compassionate parent. Hugs.