Thirteen Years Old

Dear Tad,

Today is the day you and I have both talked about for a while now.  Today, you are an actual teenager.  Today, you are thirteen years old.

I am not sure I am entirely prepared to have a teenage son.  And yet everything about you screams “teenager.”  Your voice has cracked, your body is changing, you have grown exponentially in height, and when I look at your face, there is really nothing left of my little boy.  Instead, I have an adolescent male who is all limbs and angles with no body fat, who needs to shower every day for hygiene’s sake, who has to be nagged to floss his teeth.  Even your old buck-toothed grin is gone, thanks to your braces.

You have also had a pretty roller coaster emotional year.  You had a pretty successful first year at middle school, and have formed bonds with new teachers and grown more comfortable in the larger pond.  But you suffered a terrible loss in the death of your beloved art teacher, which you are still processing to this day.  I know the legacy of her memory will stay with you always, and yet I don’t think I will ever be able to forget your raw grief in the terrible moment when I had to tell you the sad news.  You transferred from one ABA therapist to another, but at least you had a sense of continuity and familiarity there (and you will be working with your old therapist this week, much to your delight).  And you had another summer at camp, which kept you from going too bananas over the summer.

But some things have stayed the same.  Sharks.  Batman.  LEGO sets.  Doctor Who.  More LEGO sets.  Art.  Swimming.  Speech.  ABA.

You can now use a toaster oven and a microwave to make yourself some snacks.  You do know how to tidy up your room (you just don’t want to; your stacks of books make perfect sense to you).  You can take care of your own physical needs pretty well and consistently.  You see no point in remembering to do your homework because it’s BOOOOOORING.

There are so many “typical teenager” things about you.  You whine.  You sulk.  You argue.  You have angst.  But sometimes you lack the emotional processing skills and the verbal skills to really get out how you are feeling… which is not so typical.

You remind your dad and me so much of Grandma and Gichan’s dog, Talli – you believe you are still a little kid, but just trapped in a huge body.  Sometimes, I wish that were so.  I am afraid of the day that the grace you have long been able to take advantage of will no longer be extended to you – because you are no longer “little,” or “cute,” or “sound speech impaired,” or “act” like you have autism until the moment that you do.  Growing up is hard, and it is going to be doubly hard for you in so many ways.

However, you have many people who love you, support you, pray for you, and want what is best for you.  And at the top of that list is me, buddy.  I love you with all my heart, even if you are almost taller than me.  And that is never going to change.

Happy 13th birthday, Tad – my dear, irrepressible, funny, super Bat-fan and “young shark expert.”


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