I’ve had little reminders in the last few months that we’ve been approaching a big milestone in J’s life. He has a little wispy moustache and patchy sideburns that need a shave oh-so-badly but at the same time still don’t quite warrant a strict daily shave routine. We get postcards in the mail from universities and colleges around the state of North Dakota addressed to J. We had J’s senior pictures taken a few weeks ago.
We’ve also hired a lawyer to work on the paperwork for guardianship, rushed to get J’s non-driver’s license ID before he turns 18 (after 18, he has to show proof of residence with things like paystubs and rent or mortgage payments and utility bills and things like that–things even “typical” 18-year-olds don’t tend to have right away). It’s strange preparing your oldest child for “adulthood.” It’s even stranger when that child has autism and still isn’t ready for the “adult world.”
I have to admit, I feel like I’m still not ready for it. We’re still working on the guardianship piece. Covid has complicated some of that. J’s still at the beginning of his senior year of high school, so it feels like that “adulthood transition” still hasn’t happened in a lot of ways yet. And truthfully, I’m realizing more and more, this isn’t a “midnight and pumpkin” instant transformation. I’m not going to drop J off at a college or university next fall, move him into his dorm, and kiss him good-bye like other parents do when their kid turns 18 and graduates. J will still be at home. He’ll still be going to school (albeit a different looking education) with Fargo Public Schools until he’s 21 and probably working some sort of job too. He’ll be living at home for a while until we figure out that next step on what level of “living on his own looks like.”
I thought that would scare me more, but right now the big question mark of J’s future–who he is going to be, what he is going to do, where he is going to live–doesn’t really bother me. Maybe it’s because the world right now is in the middle of a pandemic that will probably fundamentally change so many things in our society after it’s all said and done. Maybe it’s because I still feel like we have “a year of school left.” Maybe it’s because I’m still really foggy about the different resources available to us post graduation. Maybe it’s because the thought of having a dependent child for a very long time–possibly for the rest of my life–is kind of daunting, and I’m subconsciously putting off dealing with it.
Or maybe it’s because, after all of these 18 years, J has grown into a really incredible, kind, hard-working, amazing young man and I’m really proud of that young man he has become. If the world doesn’t have a place for a man like that, then both J and I will make sure there will be. I’ll figure it out, just like we’ve figured out where his place in the world is for the last 18 years.
In the mean time, my newly 18 year year-old J, I will smile when I see your wispy facial hair and wait until you grow into that daily shaving routine, I’ll put those post cards in the recycle bin, and I’ll put your senior pictures up all over the house.