Tomorrow is a big day. It’s huge. My twelve-year-old son is coming of age. (Note to self: Don’t forget the tissues.)
Some of our favorite people have been arriving over the last few days, filling our little house with confidences and laughter. This afternoon the party went sightseeing and left me here in the quiet house to write this and to get a start on the food for tomorrow’s celebratory luncheon which follows a ceremony at our church.
To both boys, I have largely been both mother and father. I have done all the dad things and done them better than many dads. I’ve taken them camping and taught them to build campfires. I have thrown and kicked balls around and taught them to ride bikes. I have had hard conversations about masculinity, masturbation, and pornography. I have taken them to barber shops where women don’t feel especially comfortable. I have done roughhousing that isn’t for the faint of heart and that would probably have sent their father to the emergency room. (I used to teach a certification course in safe restraint for staff working with conduct and behavior disorder kids.) Last night, I playfully wrestled my twelve-year-old to the ground for what will probably be the last time. The boy can almost take me. Next year he will. (I think my wrestling days are over.)
Anyone who knows us at all well knows that raising my middle son has been an extraordinarily challenging undertaking. As I have previously mentioned, he has Asperger’s Syndrome, which he has only recently come to see as special and not just different. He is disorganized and often significantly more impulsive than other boys his age. Friends, teachers, and school counselors have frequently told me how lucky he is to have me as a mother, me who worked with kids not at all unlike him professionally before he was born. Those children, however, were not mine. It is different when you’re the mother. I credit that child with nearly every single gray hair I have ever plucked. Coming of age for him isn’t just another milestone to celebrate mediocrity. You see he survived. We survived. We have even come to thrive and it reassures us that there are possibilities far beyond what we think. I know he feels this as he looks hopefully toward his adolescence and his adulthood. He will be a fine young man one day, one day in the not too distant future.
I offer a note of gratitude to all those who are part of our family of choice or of the proverbial village that is helping me raise all three of these children, but especially my coming of age son. You have offered support, encouragement and advice, extra sets of eyes, and most importantly—kindness. You have taken an interest and bolstered confidence, and many of you have served informally on our “Council of Dads” as role models and mentors. Thank you.