Monday, September 21, 2009

"Happy Birthday To YA"

     Fourteen years ago on September 18th, I delivered my first child.  My son has grown from 5 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches, into a young man who stands 5 feet and 8 inches and over 180 pounds. When he hugs me he swallows me up, his arms feeling like sandbags. I believe that I am the one person in the world who knows and understands him like no one else. I am his mother, my blood runs through his veins and he will always be a part of me.  I feel every bit of pain and whatever little joys that he feels.  I am in many ways his voice, his advocate, the one who fights the battles that he has not learned how to fight for himself.  I am the one who nurtures him and loves him -even when he isn't very lovable, which is often.
     Of course his father knows, loves and understands him, but fathers are not the same as mothers.  His father has the task of showing him ow to be a man and how to survive in the cold harsh world -a job that I could never do.  However crazy it may be, I feel inclined to try to protect him from the harshness of the world, even if that doesn't make any sense or isn't based in reality.  As we have seen with our older child, you can only raise them up and show them the way.  Once they grow up they have to make their own decisions, even if often they are the wrong ones. He has to make his own way.  We can only pray that some day they will finally stop and read the map that you have spent your life drawing for them.
     On his birthday, in true Asperger's form, Kendal opens his gifts from us and shows very little expression other than perhaps -confusion.  I had wrapped up this software program we bought him, in a new t-shirt and pair of jeans.  It wasn't the exact version that one he actually asked for. He asked for the 'professional' version to the tune of $600, which was so not happening.  We bought the consumer version of the video editing program for less than $100, which is more than what he needs to upload his movies to YouTube.
     He gave us a half-assed smile and thank you, but he had to play it all out in his mind and get the facts before he gave the appropriate thankful response.  He had to investigate to see if the program would actually do -what he wanted it to do.  Once he figured that out, he gave us words of thanks and gratitude -but it was a little to late for his dad.  He saw it as being ungrateful -not as being a socially immature, inappropriate, Asperger's response.  When I remind dad of this, he tells me that I am making excuses for him (like I always do) -setting him up to be just as ungrateful and spoiled as the one that has already left the nest.  The 21 year old who continually makes selfish, stupid decisions, such as throwing away his first year of college and our fourteen thousand dollars of tuition right along with it.
    The way '21' has turned out so far, makes us both question the parenting decisions that we made when raising him.  Should we have bought him that car when he was sixteen? Did we give him too much? Sure -we probably made some mistakes, but I don't think our mistakes are the reason our eldest continues to make dumb choices.  God gave us all free will and his adult life so far is a series of  bad choices that he has made. They have absolutely nothing to do with our parenting.  There is something to be said about nature versus nurture.  We gave him our love, support, a safe home, a good education and opportunities that we never had. It was his choice to squander them.   Unfortunately, there isn't a lot we can do about that. That doesn't stop our hearts from aching or our heads from throbbing every time we find out that he has done something else completely assinine.
     With the two children we have left at home, we have to try to find balance in the way that we raise them.  We have to consciously make them aware of how cruel the world is, and stress to them how hard they will have to work in order to make their lives a success.  We have to meet the challenges that they face head on as African-American boys who have Asperger's Syndrome.  The world will not be kind to them.  But does that mean that we can't be? We have to teach them and process through to show them the appropriate response when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for them.  We also have to understand that they are who they are, although that may not be who we want them to be.  14 is an infuriating age for most teens, even more so for one who is socially clueless.  Both of our boys do however, have special gifts, talents and abilities.  We have to try to hone those gifts and turn them into skills that will create a career whereby they can share those gifts with the rest of the world, while creating, financial and personal independence for themselves.
     We put a lot of energy into raising our children, including the one who has left the nest.  And although he has disappointed us so far, we have to remember that his life is just beginning.  We have to cut the strings and ties and allow him to make his mistakes -pray that he learns from them and that in a few years we will look back on his knucklehead years and laugh.  Right now, we have to laugh to keep ourselves from crying. Or perhaps we should cry in order to cleanse ourselves, release, take a deep breath, let go and let God...  
    As for the 14 year old -we made it through the birthday weekend without taking him to SixFlags which he things is synonymous with his birthday.  He complained and repeatedly asked if we could go, but we didn't.  That was an effort to let him know that we don't "owe" him a trip to SixFlags just because it's his birthday.  In life, we don't always get everything that we want.  We have to be grateful for what we are blessed with. For us parents, that includes being grateful for our ungrateful children.

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