I cannot remember the last time I wrote a blog. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I did a lot of the things I enjoy, but that is the life of a parent of autism. For whatever reason, I was compelled to write on my son’s 16th birthday. As I was gathering my thoughts about the day and what it means for him and for us, it occurred to me that what I was feeling on this day summed up every feeling I’d had over the last 14 years.
All day I struggled with how hard the day was — or, let me rephrase, how hard I was making the day in my head:
The big 16 — a milestone birthday.
A birthday that is synonymous with a big, elaborate party.
Getting your driver’s licence.
A transition of some sort from childhood into pre-adulthood.
Then I realized that your 16th birthday really isn’t more significant than any other birthday, except that society has decided it is.
Never in the 14 years since my son was diagnosed with autism had I allowed societal influences to affect any part of our life. So why now, why was this day so hard? The honest answer is because for the first time in his 16 years, I wasn’t sure I could give my son exactly what he wanted: a driver’s licence.
Over the last 14 years, if Daniel needed or wanted something, I made it happen. It has always been an easy decision. We stand by his side and help him accomplish whatever it is he wants to accomplish. I have never looked at him and wondered if he could do it or not; the only questions were how long it would take and how we would get there. Leading up to his birthday, however, when he talked about getting his driver’s licence, I wondered for the first time if this was something we could do.
That’s what I got stuck on — not because I care if he drives or not, or that others are going out on their 16th birthday to write the test, but because he wants it so badly and I cannot make it happen for him.
How do we as parents compartmentalize our feelings while trying to do what our children want and need? How do we navigate those times when we want to give our children the world, but we just can’t?
This is why I opened Lighthouse over seven years ago. To provide every opportunity for our kids to learn in the environment they needed. To provide a place where they could accomplish all of their goals. With our move into a much larger building in September, it has become clear that I’m not the only parent who wanted that for my son. Lighthouse provides exactly what our children need.
I have been on this journey for a long time, and I have always needed someone who understands our life to tell me it is okay. To tell me that not being okay is okay. I am hoping that by sharing our story, our life, and the amazing expertise we have at Lighthouse, it helps someone’s day become just a little easier — even if it’s just being able to share their experience with someone who knows what that’s like.
Happy 16th birthday, Daniel. While you may not be getting your driver’s licence, I hope you are amazingly proud at what you have accomplished. I know I am.