Tuesday, June 15, 2010
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.