Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moving On Up

I have made many different friends over the years, simply based on the fact that we have Autism in common, in some form or another.  Many of these friends have Autistic children themselves, and the common issues have brought us together, learning from each other and leaning on one another.  Some of these friends have younger children, but those with older children I have gone to many times for advice.  I use them as my measuring stick, to see how well Katie is progressing, or use them as my glimpse into the future.  The Autism community has been very generous to me when I have needed it.  Knowing other mothers who have already gone through your worst nightmares, and have lived to see the other side, can be really beneficial. 

One of the mothers that I have met and befriended has a 19 year old Autistic daughter.  I met this friend when Katie was real young, and have always been inspired by her.  I have asked her endless questions about what to expect, but especially about issues specific to teenage girls with Autism.  I think the statistics say that there are 4 times as many Autistic males as there are females, so finding other girls we can talk to is a big help.  There are many "female" issues to worry about, that I won't even get into, but it makes a world of difference to be able to have someone to go to that has already been there and lived to tell the tale. 

I ran into this friend today, and she informed me that her daughter was moving out.  Her and her husband bought their daughter a house, about 10 minutes away from them.  They found 2 roommates to share living expenses, and hired an agency that will have 2 caregivers that stay with them 24 hours a day at the house.  Wow!  I was floored when she told me this.  I still don't know what to think or how to feel.  I don't mean how I feel about HER daughter moving out, but about how I would feel if that were Katie in 7 years.  I asked her if she was scared, and she didn't really say yes, but she didn't really say no either.  She said she still can't belive it is going to happen, and it won't feel real until her daughter actually leaves.  I have been thinking about this all day. 

I have always assumed, and so has my husband, that Katie will live with us forever.  That is a silly thing to worry about when your child has yet to reach their teens, but I am always one to look ahead and worry about what won't happen for a long time.  So many things can change between now and when Katie graduates high school.  She is going to grow and mature and change so much, that it is impossible to nail down what we will do then.  Just looking back to last year, Katie is a completely different person since then, that I can only imagine the possibilites that she will reach.  But we have always talked about her living with us, remodeling her and her sisters shared bedroom into some kind of suite, always being around.  It wasn't a good thing or a bad thing, it was just the way it was going to be.  We have talked about the 3 of us; me, my husband and Katie, going on vacations and out to dinner, visiting the other 2 girls wherever they may move to.  Katie even said that she was going to be "Aunt Katie" and take her nieces and nephews out to dinner when they came to visit, or babysit them and spoil them rotten. 

I can't even wrap my head around the idea of Katie ever moving out.  I am not saying that it will never happen, I have learned to never say never.  I just can't imagine ever feeling comfortable enough to let her live on her own, even if it was with a caregiver and roommates.  Of course, she is not 19 years old yet, and she has a lot of living to do between now and then.  I think my friend is very brave to let her daugher take this step.  Her daughter will be able to grow as a person, learn independance, and have an adult life that I assume would not be possible if she lived at home.  These are all things that normal young adults work towards, but are not always attainable for those with Autism.  But as a parent, sometimes the steps towards independance can be scarier for us than it is for our children.  It would be much easier to keep them in a bubble, under our wing, protected and sheltered.  Keep them safe and happy, unchallenged by lifes craziness, unburdened from bills and chores and social fiascos.  But that is not letting them live big, and to me it is just as important to let Katie live her life as big as she can.  Sometimes I have to realize as a parent that my Adventures in Autism are not about what I make them, or what is easiest or most comfortable for me, but about what is best for Katie, and what is going to help her become the best Katie she can be.

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