I have a confession to make…
I lack the ability to sit still and am a hoarder of all things pertaining to my kids.
Whether it’s the adorable creations crafted by their own little hands or papers pertaining to
each of their individual experiences with education (IEPs, report cards, therapy notes, A+ essays, science projects, etc), I’ve got it all nicely organized in my filing cabinet.
As I prepared to send my daughter off to college last Fall, I sorted through all of her K-12 memorabilia and parted ways with the accumulation of ‘stuff’ that carried no special meaning or significance.
Despite a few tears, wishing time would slow down, it was honestly easier than I anticipated.
Last night I was once again in the mood to do some winter cleaning, so I decided to revisit the plentiful files that remained in my home office – those pertaining to practically every moment of my nonverbal, severely autistic adult son’s life for the past 20 years.
As I sifted through hundreds of papers, stopping to re-read every medical and therapeutic analysis, goal achievement report, behavior plan and grim future prognosis based on continual delayed milestone achievement, I couldn’t help but cry.
Year after year in the ‘kindest way possible,’ I was given negative absolutes about my son’s life and encouraged to accept the fact that breaking through to him or improving his level of communication or independence was essentially a lost cause.
However, it didn’t take long for my tears to dry up, my sadness turning to anger.
They got it all WRONG!
How dare they define my child’s worth and abilities based on an obscure checklist of tasks or comparisons to other kids.
He’s accomplished so much and grown leaps & bounds in all areas, on a timeline of his choosing.
More importantly, he is proud of himself and happy!
I realized in that moment that I don’t need or want to hang on to those documents anymore. They in no way represent my son – not then and certainly not now!
So, into the shredder they went.
Each hum of the machine slicing through damaging assumptions and ‘nevers,’ none of which truly depicted the child I remember back then nor the adult he has grown to be, left me with a sense of freedom and peace.
If I could give my younger self advice or a pep talk, when these daily notes and progress reports became overwhelming and made me start to lose hope, it would be this:
Keep pouring all the love, support and reassurance you can into your son. He is capable of much more than people will give him credit for. These harsh and judgmental words and conclusions don’t define him or his future. Lastly, let him guide you and set the pace. Appreciate every successful & challenging moment because if you focus too hard on the final destination, you’ll miss so much of the beauty throughout the journey.