Monday, March 10, 2008

Happy Birthday To My Son!

Today is son's birthday; he is 15 years old. Yes, that is 2 weeks after daughter turned 14! For 2 weeks they are the same age and neither like it much...they don't care to share much these days!

Fifteen years ago today my boy showed up early - almost a month early. Hubby and I had moved to British Columbia, Canada from Germany 3 weeks prior to this date and had only purchased a stroller for the baby. Fortunately I had received a nice baby gift from my workplace in Germany, and it included some baby clothes... we were not prepared for his arrival, AT ALL. I missed the signs of impending labour; that very nasty, low backache? Yeah. I missed that chapter in the baby book. My water broke with no warning and that was the beginning. He still wasn't in a hurry to show himself and 23-1/2 hours later I wondered if we would EVER meet. Less than half an hour after that he finally decided it was time to meet the world.

The first month he was quite ill and was hospitalized twice. From there he made progress and things went quite well until he was 1. At his checkup the doctor noticed he hadn't passed certain milestones. That was the beginning and the tip of the iceberg. Who knew then it would take 8 years of various hospitals, doctors and specialists before he was finally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and an Anxiety disorder? Who knew the 8 years of wretched bullying and taunting he endured until Feb 14 of last year when I finally pulled him out of the regular school system in Alberta? Who knew how utterly heart-wrenching and difficult those years of violent tempers, explosions, migraines, and frustration would be? I'm glad I didn't know. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and when I look back at all the years.... how did we get through it all in remarkably decent shape?

What a journey we are on! It started by letting go of our dreams and hopes and accepting what is. We learned to push on long after we wanted to quit, to adapt our home and life to our situation. Our beliefs and values were stretched, snapped and re-aligned through the years. I learned tolerance, understanding and developed a sense of humour. Gifts from him to me.

No one outside of a special needs family can understand the terrible days or the difficult decisions and unpopular actions we took. Imagine spending years not knowing what the developmental issues are or how to help your child. Or being told there was nothing really that you can do but knowing the family unit is falling apart with the status quo.

Somehow, along the way, we found a formula that works for us on most days. Our lives changed from the mundane to the humungous. I dropped out of University when he struggled in school; I couldn't focus on my studies and help him at the same time. Those were the days when homework took 2-3 agonizing hours a night and the screaming and tears because he was completely overwhelmed. The sudden, violent tempers that erupted without warning or seeming reason. The days of his headaches and severe migraines. The many, many days when his peers were cruel and hurtful to him.

He has taught us so much along the way. I learned to push for more when faced with "no" and "nothing"...and discovered there is always something beyond "no". I learned that I'm tougher but more fragile too, than I thought. That even though something breaks my heart I put on a brave face and teach him how to accept what life throws at him. He taught me to take my time and to decide what are the most important issues and values in raising a child. We learned a lot about Asperger's along the way and discovered another side of life that the average family never sees.

I, for one, am a better person because of my son. As with any child, or teenager, he can drive me crazy sometimes! He is a kind-hearted, friendly person who cannot break the rules because of his neuro-development. He has a particular sense of the world that is endearing and funny to those who know him. He has a kind heart for babies, kids and animals. He is a gentle spirit, who spent many years enduring the horrible treatment by his peers, who has battled depression, anxiety and fear on a daily basis.

This year he had one of his best birthdays ever. He wanted a party this year because we were with family and for the first time in years, he knew people wanted to celebrate with him. He spent a long time deciding on the menu and type of meal we would have. He wondered daily what his relatives would get him although he knew it would come from his list he gave them. He really wanted a cheesecake for his birthday but insisted on another dessert/cake for everyone else because he knew they didn't like cheesecake. He wanted to be the centre of attention, for a good reason, for once in a very long while. He wouldn't let anyone sing Happy Birthday to him and he didn't want candles on his cake for that reason. In his world it doesn't make sense and so it was done his way. He loved his party. He also loved this evening; he and his cousin went to see a movie together. As an adult I wasn't permitted to sit with them, that would be embarrassing! I still had to be in the theatre though; he still needs that security blanket! He laughed with his cousin and they thoroughly enjoyed the movie, "Road Trip". When the evening was done he crawled into bed, tired from the time change and his long day....but happy for this great birthday this year.

So, in closing I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our extended family for showering him with love and attention this year and for making him feel special. It breaks a parent's heart when no one wants to be with your kid on his special day and we had quite a few of those in Alberta. Out there I'd pull him out of school for the day and he and I would cruise the West Edmonton Mall for the day, hanging out and shopping. He loved doing that too, but this year he got his "warm fuzzies" (feel good moments) from family and although he cannot express emotions very well or even appropriately, I know this meant everything to him. And that means everything to us, his parents. Thanks you guys, we love you all!


restyled home said...

What a beautiful post for the sweetest of boys. You know I hold a special place in my heart for him and getting to know him (and Kristen) this past year has meant so much to me. I wish I was around more for all of these family events, but despite that, I still think I am on Mathew's "cool" list (he'd loudly protest that, I'm sure) and tell him I'll take him to the mall next time I come home!!

Much love to you all,

Julie said...

What a truthful, insightful and loving post. I'm so glad he enjoyed his special day.

Hugs, Julie

onelittlemustardseed said...

We all love you too!

Susan said...

what a lovely post, sis! And about Mathew, who we all love over here too. I'm so glad you ALL finally had fun on his birthday, and I hope he feels loved, because he is.
I can't believe he is 15.....and Kristen is 14.....and the incredible journey you all have been on to get to this place and space in time where Mathew can finally have a birthday that he enjoyed from beginning to end. That's the best gift of all, isn't it? So hugs from me to you (and John), because you both need them too!