Do You Remember 13?

Do you remember 13? Seventh grade or eight grade maybe? A mixture of hormones, uncertainty, a growing sense of self and figuring out how to fit in with the right friends without compromising your true self? And what is that true self? Is it growing out of what your parents taught you, or is it developing independently apart from the external influences in your life?

Do you remember 13? Not wanting to hang around your family all the time, wanting to be out of the house more, but you aren’t old enough to drive. Perhaps listening to what your friends are saying more than your parents. Perhaps not. Starting to realize that you are responsible for your choices. Wanting to talk to your parents about what is on your mind, but not wanting to at the same time.

Do you remember 13? Not wanting all your stuff, especially the tough stuff, shared by your parents to their friends? Or, in this age of social media, perhaps not wanting the details of your life shared in a public way? Maybe you’re ok with being “friends” with your mom on Facebook. Maybe you don’t want your worlds to collide online.

I have a 13-year-old in my home, and in so many ways he’s a mystery to me.

The decision on how much to share and not share about one’s children run vastly different from household to household. Often we are posting pictures of our newborns minutes after they are born, sharing everything from potty training woes to first steps to “kids say the darndest things.” Grade school recorder concerts and stories of how our kids are driving us crazy. I’ve been known to crowd source challenging fourth grade math problems. And then one friend refreshingly announced that she was keeping her baby’s image and name off social media until the child was old enough to decide for himself.

At some point, inevitably, the sharing about kids seems to go down as they grow older and become more self-aware and self-conscious. Hopefully, we as parents learn to respect their privacy and seek their permission before sharing anything, good or bad, on social media.

And this is where I’m floundering.

Why do we share? To seek connections with each other, to educate, entertain and amuse each other. To realize that we are not alone in what we are going through. To seek support and understanding. To share knowledge, news and opinions. And sure, to vent.

I write for all those reasons and more. Hopefully to demystify autism, to help change perceptions, attitudes and interactions towards and with those with special needs. To push our Muslim communities and mosques to be more inclusive and supportive to special needs families. To help the world live with dignity, love and compassion with my child and all those with autism. To provide an honest window into our lives so you can see the struggle, the heartbreak, the love and the joy.

To touch and be touched. To fall and rise again. To affect change.

To be real. Really real about what this is like. For Lil D, for us as his family.

But what I keep wondering is how he feels about all this.  He is a 13-year-old boy, a young man, really. He can communicate in some ways, but he is largely nonverbal and unable to voice his thoughts and opinions. He can tell me that he wants a “bow-nee,” but I am left guessing as to what he is thinking at any given moment. What made him upset this evening? Is he pushing me away because he’s 13 and doesn’t want his mom to be fawning over him, or is it because something is bothering him and this is the only way he can express it?

Was he upset on the bus last week, banging his head against the window and crying because the music was too loud or because his movement was being constricted by the harness or because he didn’t like the rubber smell coming off of the seats? Did he erupt at McDonalds yesterday because his therapist asked him if he wanted to go for a walk after eating his fries, and he just wanted to go home, and he didn’t have the patience to let her know via his iPad?

When he was restless last night after going to bed and kept making noises wavering between laughter and crying, banging his feet up against the wall — was he signaling that he wanted me to come in and adjust his blanket and sit with him for a while, or was it his way of telling me I had forgotten to turn the closet light on,and it was too dark in his room? Or was it something else entirely?

And when I write about all this, is he ok with it? Is he ok with me sharing? I’d like to think that not only are the readers of this blog hopefully benefiting by reading about our journey, but that this is good for Lil D as well — because more people are now pulling for him, praying for him, cheering for him and breaking their hearts for him. That his community of support is widening, growing.

I’d like to believe all this. On any given day I do believe this, in what we are trying to do together here.

But then I lie with him when he is willing to have me close. Our faces hover inches apart, and he takes his finger and taps it against my teeth. His eyes look into mine, then look away when it becomes too much. For a split second, he invites me into his soul, close enough so that I can nearly feel what he may be feeling.

And then just as fast the curtains are pulled shut, and I am left wondering.

You are 13, Lil D. Are you ok with all this? When we meet in front of God, will you tell me that I had your permission to share all along?

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

 

About Dilshad Ali

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