Fifteen Years Old

Dear Tad,

This last year has been a mixed bag for you.  I think we were all mentally preparing for this birthday, this momentous occasion when you would be formally making the leap from middle school to high school, with all the pomp and circumstance and preparations that usually go into a school transition for you.

And then COVID hit, and nothing has been the way we had planned.

Up until that moment, you were doing very well in school, managing your work with the assistance of your teachers and paras.  Things were going well!  You even attended your first school dance – which, let’s be honest, you only went to because there was free pizza.  You were growing socially at youth group, and enjoyed your routines of art class and swim social group and speech and ABA at home.

And then, almost instantaneously, it was all gone – with the exception of your ABA sessions with your dear “teacher” H, who, quite frankly, has helped keep you sane and functional during this period of time.  Your classes went online, you couldn’t see friends or teachers, your art class and swim group were canceled, and speech therapy went online.  All your routines, your structure, your schedule – poof!  Gone.  And even now, things are not normal in the least.  And who knows if some things will ever return.

Last night, we threw an early birthday party for you in our backyard, with your friends Danny, Ellie, and George.  All four of you were simply happy to be together, even if attention strayed from the movie (“Return of the Jedi,” at your request) and I don’t even want to think about the quantity of sugar that was consumed (though not as much pizza as I predicted).  It struck me as I chatted with the other moms and watched you with your friends, just how much we have all missed human interaction.  You, my darling boy, are an extrovert just like your father.  You need the company of other people – otherwise, you simply end up talking to yourself.  Fortunately, your friends want to talk as well – and everyone walked away happy last night when the movie ended.

The last five months of your life have been a struggle, Tad.  I wish I could tell you that things are going to be going back to normal soon, but I can’t.  School will be online again in the fall, but as people feel more comfortable doing things and living life again, you will find your human connections that you desperately need to be a functional social teenager once more.

This is a much more serious letter than I usually write for your on your birthday, and it’s reflective of the moment we are in.  You still cling to the things you love – Batman, sharks, Star Wars, your current fascination with random trivia, your love of Disney+, art – but there’s a definite sense of entropy right now that swirls around you.  We are doing our best to fight it off, and have enlisted the help of trusted therapists to do so, but the honest truth is that you need your friends and your schedule back.

Last night, things seemed happier and brighter, and that made us all happier and brighter.

So, here is to happier and brighter days, Tad, and may your 15th birthday be the beginning of better things for you.


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