As July approaches quickly, I find myself face to face with a frustrated teen who’s closing out her first year in secondary school. I have sat back in awe and watched her go from a shy, quiet girl who kept to herself, to this confident, gabby, young lady in the space of 6 months.
She had a rocky start to secondary and to be honest, who doesn’t? It was a big change for anyone but for Leah it really tested her anxiety with crowds, noise and “teenagers”. However, she ploughed through her worries and emerged victorious as she overcame each of her fears. But as her confidence grew, I began to see that dreaded teen angst and cockiness come through more and more. We’ve had our first “you just don’t understand” moment recently which made me giggle a bit, I’ll admit. Not that her issue wasn’t important because it was and she was right, I didn’t understand. But it was this parent rite of passage moment I was told we would never experience so when we did, I had a little cheer moment inside to celebrate!
All throughout Leah’s life I had dreams, aspirations and goals set out for her; graduating college, getting married, having kids, etc. All parents have this! But when we received Autistic diagnosis at the age of 6, those dreams were compromised with warnings that her symptoms may increase as she gets older making relationships and socializing harder. I was told many times that “she may be manageable now but as she grows up it will be increasingly difficult and you won’t have that relationship with her”. This cut me up in pieces.
I remember becoming a parent for the first time. Holding my daughter in my arms and breathing in her gorgeous smell. I looked at her little face, her tiny fingers, her button nose and I fell in love. She was perfect in every way I could have imagined and still is. I remember the dreams I would have while dowsing during night feeds. Dreams of sharing make up and a love of shoes. Of having shopping days out where we would chat over hot drinks and try on clothes. All the scenarios of teen life would flood my head; first boyfriend, first rebellion, first detention. I would look at her and think “I will be ready for it all and more”
I felt those specialists took these dreams away from both of us when preparing us for life ahead and it’s complications. But as time went on and we formed our new normal, those dreams were altered from idealistic storybook movie imaginings to conquering real life milestones. I had a front row seat!
As the school term ends, it brings the usual end of year traditions. Exams, trips, sports days, concerts, parents evening, etc. It’s a chance for the kids to showcase their hard work over the year. To step back and look at what they have achieved. Of course, with that you have the pressure in the run up too all these things. Which we have felt very strongly in this house for months! My once chilled happy little bean has morphed into a cocky person full of attitude, who has the answer to everything and doesn’t seem to have a mute button on her volume! She talks back, storms off, grumbles and sleeps til noon. She listens to music through head phones, meets friends in town and ditches her mom on the bus to go sit with said friends from school!
I love this because It’s that sign of normality that I daydreamed about when she was baby. That normality that we were told would never come.
We take our days as they come, I think that’s all anyone can do. Leah and I are both still learning how autism is going to affect her in the long term but one thing is for sure, she isn’t letting it get in the way of her growing up. So neither am I. Every argument she picks with me, every door that’s slammed is another little victory and another box ticked.
DeAnna’s (Blue Chameleon blog series) Focuses on rebuilding self-confidence after suffering through difficult times. DeAnna lives in Cambridge, England with her family, cats and dog. She credits a portion of happiness to her partner, Pete, punctuation manager, chief tea maker, and bringer of toast.