Jacob loves to stay at home and hang out with me. He has great appreciation for inappropriate TV shows (think Southpark, Family Guy or The Boondocks), and one of his favorite things for us to do together is watch one of his DVDs or stream one of his shows online. I actually think these shows are pretty funny, and I manage a chuckle or two during each episode. His buddies also like the shows, so it gives him a socially appropriate reference point with peers.
As nice as it is that my son enjoys my company, I am so ready form him to transfer his in-person social connection to someone his own age. For young men like Jacob, those that are higher-funcioning on the autism spectrum but not so high functioning when it comes to social-connectedness, it's perfectly natural to hang out with the family. A fun Friday night for Jacob is for me to make popcorn, order a pizza from our favorite pizzeria, and watching one of his preferred movies like Tropic Thunder or The Big Lubowski. I enjoy this too, but Jacob will be 18 in September. The summer I was 18, I already had my driver's license, a car, and a part-time job. I was paying my own way and making my own plans, and none of these depended on my parents to make them happen.
I wonder if this will ever happen with Jacob.
Mind you, he has made tremendous progress, and his difficult past behaviors seem like a distant memory now. When he was younger, his impulsiveness was challenging and he'd often do things with out thinking. Now, I can't remember the last time he run away from me in a crowd or got upset when he didn't get his way. He's doing well at public high school, he's getting rave reviews from his manager at his part-time Petco job, and he can walk home from school on his own without me having to worry. This is all good stuff, and I'm very proud of him for having accomplished so much.
Not that I would change anything from the past. I've been there for Jacob because he needed me to be his advocate, and, given the same circumstance, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. And I think I that for the most part, I've made the right choices, even though most of the time it was a financial struggle. It's almost impossible to work a full-time job when you have a child with special needs due to the demands of your child's care. In retrospect, I don't know how I did it. But I did, and today both Jacob and I are doing really well. So I guess should give myself some credit for that.
But, and I say this with all affection, I need him to need me less! For nearly all the years that Jacob has attended school, I've coordinated doctor's appointments, arranged playdates, attended IEPs, and bought holiday gifts for all of his teachers, aides, and therapists. And, as it is now, I'm still arranging playdates with his peers from high school, but now these are called get-togethers, not playdates.
I feel like I've done my time, I've perserved and I've survived. Hurray for the good things! But I'm looking forward to the day when Jacob picks up the phone, makes plans with a buddy or a girlfriend with out any prompting or assistance from me and goes out with his friends to have some fun experiences.
That will be a happy day indeed!