Everett turned 13 earlier this month. There isn’t a parent that doesn’t go back on your child’s birthday to the day they were born. I usually begin a couple of days before the actual day thinking back on the last week of pregnancy. I think about the time of day he was born and take inventory on where we were in the process of delivery as the day goes on. I’m nostalgic to when my boys were babies even though being a new mom is so incredibly tough and I’m certainly not interested in doing it again. I have for a long time looked at Everett’s teenage years as the great unknown. My hope was that he would transition to adulthood with ease, but have prepared myself for the hurdles that might come with raising a teenage boy with autism that struggles with regulating his emotions and communication.
Everett’s growth over the last year is undeniable. He will pass me in height during this 13th year. He very much has Brewster genes. He is shaped and looks like Brett. Sometimes, I get a glimpse of his feet and toes peaking out from under a blanket and do a double take to how identical they are to his father’s. He has always been opinionated about his preferences but in the past year his motivation and willingness to take matters into his own hands about what he wants is a whole new ballgame for us. The haircut situation is a perfect example. I have to hover over him when he is getting a haircut to ensure that he doesn’t quickly snatch the clippers out of the stylist’s hands and give himself the cut he wants which is straight up buzzcut. Shorter hair makes him look so much older and I prefer Everett’s hair to have some length, but his new found resourcefulness makes my wants irrelevant. Even if we get out of a hair salon with the cut I want, within a week he figures out a way to make some adjustments.
Another thing that has increased this year is his ability to connect with people. He wants to talk to strangers. “What’s your name?” comes out of his mouth almost daily to someone we don’t know. For a few years when Everett sees someone out in public that he knows, he gets so excited and wants so much to interact with them. If you’ve ever received an excited Everett greeting, you know what I’m talking about. It’s an experience to receive as well as watch.
I’ve dreaded this number and him growing older since his diagnosis. As a typical parent, you wish for time to slow down because you know they will grow up and build their own lives without you. The motivation for my wishes of time to slow down are driven directly from the widening gap of differences between Everett’s life and the life of a typical 13 year old. I know he isn’t going to grow into a normal adult life. Most 13 year olds don’t want a Peppa Pig piñata and to play “pin the tail on the donkey”, but Everett did. Do those specific details make me sad? Absolutely freaking not. The amount of joy he experienced at his party because of the small details of his birthday was unmeasurable. This is where I should insert the amazing images I captured from the party, but as I often do I am living in the moment and don’t even think about snapping even one image. We gathered a few images from family and friends so thank you to them!
Everett loved his party and everyone that attended so much. Our home and hearts were so full!! And like most things that I spend time dreading, it was perfectly fine and he hasn’t turned into a hulk version of himself. I wasted energy on things I have no control over, which I often do. As we head into lucky number 13, my intention is to keep gently pushing him outside of his comfort zone in a safe environment, celebrate his growth, catch him and help him back up when he fails, create new, exciting experiences for him, and love him deeply to help re-establish his since of comfort. I love sharing our journey to connect with and help those who are walking our same path, and I also want to continue educating others so they can understand more about what autism and differently-abled family’s walk through. The parts of parenting Everett that are hard are far outweighed by the moments of grace, joy, impact and connection that he facilitates in mine and so many other’s lives.
Happy Birthday to my favorite teenager!!