Just over a week ago, Sonny turned 6 years old. It’s difficult to grasp just how quickly the time seems to have slipped through my fingers. For some reason 6 years of age feels like the beginning of a whole new chapter. Generally speaking when we think of milestones we imagine celebrating our child’s first birthday, entering those dreaded teenage years at thirteen and legal celebrations at eighteen. With the reality of Sonny turning 6, I feel a monumental shift coming in the dynamics of our family and Autism parenting as I’ve known it to be. A whole new bundle of worries and what if’s.
So why is it that Sonny’s now 6 do I feel apprehensive? I mean we have no upcoming transitional milestones such as his first day of school, first school trip or first sleepover. We’ve accomplished diagnosis. All those milestones have either been and gone or are nowhere close enough for me to start fretting over.
I am 5ft 4, average build and I lead an active lifestyle but I don’t drive and there is my downfall. When Joe became ill this time last year, I had to stop my driving lessons. With him missing crucial self employed work, it just wasn’t within our budget anymore. We have both worked so hard this last year to allow a little wiggle room in our finances so I can resume my lessons. I have my first one booked tomorrow morning! The need to drive is pressing! It sure would be easier to pop all three of them in the car and drive us safely to where we need to be. It would also leave me with more energy to direct where it’s needed. As Joe’s condition worsens the nearer he gets to needing a transplant, it means I can help him by taking the pressure of and by taking him to his appointments.
As it stands we walk the journey to school with youngest in the pushchair and Sonny on the buggy board with his big brother walking along side us. Sonny is hypermobile and physically cannot walk that distance without being in pain. There are of course schools closer to us, however you make the effort to travel to a school in which you are sure will be able to meet your child’s needs, regardless of the distance, don’t you?
With Sonny being on a reduced time table and his little brother at preschool, that accounts to 8 school drop offs and pick ups at 2 different locations. It’s physically, mentally draining to walk 5 days a week, I struggle physically to push up hill and behind the smiles it feels as though I barely make it there. On the days in which he resists going to school I am often hit or shouted at or he will dart off in the direction of home.
Birth to five feels like a distant memory. A chapter closed. An entity of it’s own and having done it three times over, it’s something I have down to a fairly fine art. Hand me a newborn any day of the week.! It’s familiar, it’s a comfort zone, you’re supported by midwives, health visitors and when they are small and sweet nobody seems to mind lending an extra hand. Post Autism diagnosis, we’re doing it mostly single handed whilst we’re placed on another waiting list for further support.
Five and beyond brings challenges new to me. Sonny’s older brother has just turned 8 and it’s a rollercoaster full of raging hormones and emotions. You, the parent, now more than ever need to lead by example and allow them to grow in both confidence and independence. Knowing when to take the lead and when to take a step back is tough.
Maybe age 6 isn’t even the issue…
Sonny’s not a dinky little thing anymore, he grows taller, stronger and heavier with every day that passes. There is absolutely nothing I can do to slow this inevitable process. His behaviour has become a means of control and his meltdowns, when they happen have become complex, he carries power in his height, weight and his strength.
Sonny is growing up. Maybe that’s what unsettles me.
And of course I know that whatever life brings, we’ll do as we’ve always done. Together with strength, a whole lot of love and brave faces as we enter unchartered territory.