Ash’s future….now that’s a loaded topic. Forget living day to day. Most of the time we live hour by hour, minute my minute….some days, living second by second isn’t at all an exaggeration. With the depth of his sensory issues, let alone how they and the manifestations of his Autism are affected by even things as uncontrollable as the sky, even Ash can’t know what he’s going to be capable of, or not capable of — for better or worse — from one moment to the next. That makes our parental job of actually PLANNING, just a touch more interesting. Do you know what I’m usually doing until 3 or 4am? Preparing for the morning that will be starting in 3-4 hours, and the 10 possible ways it is most likely to go, based on how the last few preceding hours of Ash’s awake time went. Maybe he will be capable of startling eloquence. Maybe he won’t be able to do more than make squeaky shrieking sounds and keep repeating whatever single word or short phrase his head has most recently become “stuck” on trying to process. (Right now “forget” and “understand” are the words used, and misused, ad nauseum.) Maybe he’ll be able to pick his own clothes and completely dress himself. Maybe getting him dressed in the morning will resemble a “Moving People” skit from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Perhaps he’ll be whining for help with everything, or desperately insistent on doing everything all by himself, regardless of how the preceding set of options fall. Maybe he’ll maintain his sweetness, his gentleness and his infectious happiness regardless of what challenges the day and his brain throw at him. Maybe he’ll be consumed by a burning frustration at feeling like he just can’t seem to get out of bed the “right” way, and before he’s made it out of his bedroom, he’ll already be unwittingly acting out scenes from horror movies he’s never seen. Even the simplest of things ‘going smoothly’ usually takes preemptive excesses of psychological and environmental manipulation on my part, and if that’s required to get Ash through needing to wear galoshes TO school tomorrow but sneakers once AT school, how in hell can I plan for, oh, say, puberty?
All that is without getting into the “big” questions, like whether or not Ash will ever be able to have a romantic relationship (kindergarten crushes….literally….aside), perhaps even raise children some day. Will he even be able to live independently, or should we keep working on getting out of medical debt and repairing our credit so we can buy a duplex townhouse and try to live forever, because the news — and what never makes it into the news — makes it too terrifying to even contemplate having to rely on anyone else for his responsible care?
Beyond all that, what does Ash want for his own future? Regardless of neurological circumstances, one can only take just so seriously the claim of any six year old boy to his Mommy that she shouldn’t worry, for he will stay together with her forever and ever.
Brief tangent here… When I was a little — and not so little — girl, and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always, “Happy.” Oh, if asked more specifically about career aspirations I could easily enough spout out one goal or another, but that was never my default and truly honest answer, if the question was more open-ended. And, while it would have been foolish to get into explaining and expounding, my notion of what Happiness was likely to entail involved the defiantly optimistic ideal of having Love….love from others that I could believe in, and love for others that I didn’t have to second-guess. Friendship, yes. Romance. Parenthood. As my mother always said, I always made things more complicated. ::wry smile::
While my dreams of what I wanted for myself in life were crafted from the harsh awareness of things I knew I most certainly did not want, Ash appears to take after me when it comes to the goals his mind instinctively leans towards, and yet….and all those who know Steffan and I will tell you it’s not so daring for me to claim it….Ash’s inspiration is, you might say, far more direct. With his common failure to fit into stereotypes of Autism, Ash often enough expresses not just an expectation to, not just an interest in, but the desire to end up married and a parent. “I’m too little to get married, but I need to grow up and get older so I can have a wedding,” Ash once said. Why, so he can dance his pants off? No. “Because that means I’m supposed to found my love-match like you and Daddy.” Nope, he doesn’t take for granted that it always happens. After confirming that so-&-so and so-&-so are husband-and-wife or husband-and-husband (the combinations he personally knows), he’ll usually follow it up by asking me if the couple are, “Love-matches like you and Daddy and I.” So, when he grows up, he can find his love-match and get married. “And then I think I can be a Daddy, too.” Oh, yes? “Daddy, you are Mommy’s big love, and Mommy, you are Daddy’s big love too. And I am your little love. And we are all love-matches together in our family. And so when I get bigger I can have a love-match and then it will be my big love and I will be big so I can be a Daddy so I will have a little love.”
□ Does the patient evince an interest in other people? √
□ Does the patient develop emotional relationships? √
□ Does the patient try to express his feelings? √
□ Does the patient…
Yeah, screw that. My child is autistic and he is totally into the idea of forming relationships with other people of distinct strengths and types. Maybe that’ll change as he ages, as it might with any other child, but that’s the thing….“As it might be with any other child.”
In fact, he’s been expressing hopeful intentions of growing up to be a husband and father for longer than many of his typical peers have been telling people that they want to be a princess / astronaut / dinosaur rider / doctor / etc., and Ash is certainly no more ignorant of examples of jobs, fantastical or otherwise, than he is of examples of relationships. Until now, however, he has never been able to answer the clichéd question of what he wants to be/do when he grows up. If someone tried asking him, they generally got a somewhat blank stare and a reflexive so-long-as-I-smile-at-them-and-they-smile-back-it-will-all-be-good smile. If they kept pressing and providing cues, he might get as far as telling them he’d be [one year older], or that he’d still be [his name or one of his nicknames].
You caught the, “Until now,” up there, though, right? Mmm hmmm! That’s right, Ash has, for the first time, considered, concluded, and expressed a desire to have a particular sort of job when he grows up!
You know what? Aside from him needing to learn how to control his excited jitters and managing to move less erratically, I see no reason why he couldn’t rock at it.