I’m going to be completely honest and vulnerable here. I’ve been struggling with my emotions the last few weeks and haven’t really felt much like writing, talking or doing much of anything.

I don’t usually let my feelings thoroughly overtake me, but this is a really momentous year for our family – one that seemed to creep up on me faster than I was prepared for.

In a few short weeks, Skyler will celebrate his 18th birthday and become an “adult!!”

Traditionally, entrance into adulthood is marked with significant life changes and eagerness to become independent. However, unlike his 18-year-old peers, Skyler won’t be venturing out into the world on his own.

The new phase of his life will include a judge ordering him incapable of ever making decisions on his own behalf and labeling me his permanent ‘guardian.’

I try really hard to shove down the sadness and mourning for the ‘traditional’ milestone moments that will never be.

But, with each social media post showing senior pictures, high school graduation planning and college acceptance letters, a tiny piece of my heart breaks.

As I smile and congratulate my friends on the incredible achievements of their children, I can’t help but simultaneously feel jealous and envious that autism robbed Skyler and me of those same shared mother & son experiences.

I know our journey is different than most and the majority of the time, I’m honestly accepting of that. I’ve learned to allow myself a short time to grieve what could’ve been then pick myself back up and reflect back on the many joyful moments I’ve had parenting Skyler the past 17 years.

Although it’s not the same, I treasure these pre-k graduation photos of Skyler (he was 6 and cute as a button!). It might not be the traditional high school cap and gown photos I’d planned for, but they hold very special meaning for Skyler’s life and mine.

I adore Skyler for the young man he’s become despite all the challenges he continues to face. His tenacity and desire to become independent makes me a very proud mom… no diploma can ever take the place of that.