School pictures always make you realize how big your kids were getting, and this year was a shocker. In real life, Max still looks on the younger side but in the photo that arrived home from school, he was downright man-like. It made me all sentimental. In some ways, it felt like he grew up so fast but then I think back to the early years, when timed seemed to pass so slowly and progress never came fast enough.
One of the hardest parts of raising a child with disabilities is that you so desperately wish you knew what they will someday be able to do. I had a constant undercurrent of anxiety: Would Max crawl? Walk? Talk? Eat on his own? Write? Read?
But of course, no teacher, therapist, doctor or specialist of all specialists had answers. I was told by the neurologist once that was a good thing—he basically said that if we were being told to wait and see, it meant it was clear Max had plenty of potential. That offered some reassurance, yet didn't totally satisfy me. Because: I. Just. Wanted. To. Know.
Only the passage of time helped. I just had to make it through those first few years, when I struggled to adapt to parenthood and to the realities of having a child with special needs and kept torturing myself by comparing Max to other children. I always say: As Max matured, I did, too. I learned not just that he would do things on his own timeline but that he might not do them at all, and that was OK—something that would have been impossible for me to accept in his early days. I stopped wishing for what Max could be, and learned to accept him for who he was. I abandoned the typical milestones on the side of the road we traveled, and focused on the child by my side.
And now, here's my boy, nearly 17. It may be hard to believe if you have a tot or young child with disabilities, but someday you will look at your grown child's school photo and only feel awe for how far they have come. You will see a child who has matured in their own way, with their own kind of brightness, abilities, talents, skills and charms, the kind you couldn't have imagined or hoped for and certainly nobody could have predicted.
And you will look at that school picture and be so proud and wowed and not totally believe your eyes. Because there is that boy or girl you once obsessively worried about, looking like they own the world. And they do.