We took Thomas out for breakfast this morning. We hadn’t seen him since his 18th birthday earlier this month. It was so awesome to see him and spend a little time together. What’s even more awesome is how he’s adjusted to living away from us. Thomas honestly looks happy. Happy to be there with people who have more patience and structure than we’ll ever have. It stings though. Stings that we aren’t able to provide what he needs. I used to joke and say one day I would be an old lady living with Thomas…and 6 cats. These days I don’t joke like that anymore because my son will be living away from me. I’ll probably still have the 6 cats though.
I never thought I’d see my son so independent of us. I’m happy for him. He still needs us as his family but he doesn’t need us for his day to day living. The staff at his school now fills that need. I’m ok with that too. It occurred to me while driving home that there were so many times during Thomas’ childhood that I couldn’t wait for him to be older, mainly so we could obtain a proper diagnosis and treatment. We/I was jerked around so badly by so many professionals it made for Thomas’ childhood to be very trying to put it lightly. I’m stunned at how fast the past 18 years have gone by. Stunned. Yet like most mothers I can recall certain memories as if they were literally yesterday. I don’t want to go back in time, once a go ’round was quite enough for me thanks. I remember so many people telling me to enjoy my kids when they were much younger and me scoffing at them. What the hell did they know about my life? I did enjoy them the best I was able to. As a parent of older teens I see how fast time flies but I won’t tell other parents to “enjoy them while they’re little”. It’s not all fun and games, in my opinion anyway.
With my older kids I’ve enjoyed and are still enjoying every stage. Some more than others. These teen years can give anyone a run for their money. Then I have Samantha who’s almost 8 and she gives me a totally different perspective. I have the opportunity to do some things differently but not like night and day parenting. My core parenting style has not changed.
But getting back to Thomas and how things are so very different that I ever imagined they would be. I always saw myself as being his care giver. At least until he entered a group home and I never had an imagined time that would be. It was always “somewhere” in the future but don’t ask me when. I never imagined he would acclimate to this school like he has. There are no tears when we say good bye, no long torturous, please don’t leave goodbyes. There’s like today, “Thomas would you like to hang out a bit after breakfast?” The answer I received? “No…bye!” He had things to do, he spent time with us and breakfast was over. And that’s ok.
My Thomas celebrated his 18th birthday this past week. It kind of blew me away that my first baby is now 18 years old. 18 years. It truly seems like yesterday I gave birth. I guess it will always seem that way no matter how old my children get. But 18…man! That’s a milestone. And what an 18 years it has been. How different things would have been if Thomas were an average “typical” child. But that’s not how God wanted it, planned it. It’s taken me a long time to accept that fact. That no matter what I did or didn’t do during my pregnancy and what the midwife did or didn’t do during Thomas’ delivery, The Father was/is in charge and was overseeing everything so that His plan was the one that played out.
It’s hard not to imagine what life could have been like had Thomas not been born the way he was. I like to tell myself there are no guarantees that he would have been a walk in the park. There’s no way of knowing if drugs would have been an issue. Would he have been extremely rebellious? Cutting school? I don’t know. I had a dream not to long ago that Thomas was completely typical. We were sitting together with Alyssa and talking. I don’t remember what we talked about but it was amazing and took me all day to get over that dream. My husband has had a similar dream as well. Was that a gift from The Lord to show us what to expect when we are no longer a part of this world? That there is a part of Thomas He has yet to reveal to us?
18 years old. 18 years of loving this child, fighting for him, changing who I am at my very core, my soul. Being who Thomas is changed me for who I am. I know that was part of The Lord’s plan as well. Amazing isn’t it? The domino effect.
We had an awesome family celebration for Thomas at a local restaurant by his school. Practically the whole staff came out to sing him Happy Birthday. Thomas was overwhelmed and almost hid behind Tommy. I stared at this child of mine. He’s still and always will be my “child” but now he’s a young man. The Lord will continue to work in us and He will continue to give us “gifts” that will glorify Him.
It’s here, summer vacation; the kids are off from school. Part of me really enjoys the lack of a schedule, not getting up early and encouraging certain children to get ready for school on time. There’s the other part of me that misses the routine. That predictable routine. The certain number of almost guaranteed kid free hours. I will admit though I do get bored when everyone is in school, I’m currently searching for a part time job (with no success) to get me out of this house when everyone is in school. I will also admit I’m not thrilled with my current station of stay at home mom. Honestly at this point in time it is not something I would recommend anyone to do. Stay home that is. The loss of identity is overwhelming. I think that is one of my issues right now. I know I’m a wife, a mom of 4 and a Christian; in no particular order. Those are the big 3 identities I can think of right now and all put together they just don’t seem “enough”. As I’ve written before I envy those moms who are at home like me who seem to have it all together.
With Thomas not living here my identity did a major shift. I’m still his mother but I’m also not “Thomas’ mother” the way I was when he lived home. When he entered residential school I gave him to them with a heavy heart. I still mourn that loss of identity. It was like the rug was taken from under me. I wouldn’t change our decision of residential school, it was absolutely the best for Thomas and our family. And two years later it still remains the best decision.
I want a magic ball, the one where you can look into the future and see what path God has put us on and how it all plays out. Which leads to the identity of being a Christian. I firmly believe He makes all things work together for our good. But where’s the script? I know I’m being silly in wanting these things but I know I can’t be alone in wanting to know am I on the road He wants me on? Have I strayed from His path and not known it? I want to please the Lord but have insecurities where there should be none. His grace is sufficient and there should be no “buts”. His way is perfect, I just need to remind myself of that. And if I have strayed He will find a way to lead me back on track. That’s where faith comes in. Faith that God will always be with us and believing and knowing with all your heart that His way is the best way.