Every morning as we’re waiting for his bus, my son Bo (with ASD/Down syndrome, and a trauma background) and I scroll through Snapchat filters together. He loves them and still can’t figure out why he can’t make them go away by patting his head. I love that he snuggles in close to me in the quiet of the morning.
We laugh together and it’s usually a great way to start the day.
But there’s one filter that makes me uneasy. The filter that turns my sweet baby’s face into a grown man’s. It starts me off on a jackrabbit trail of anxiety and “what wills”.
What will happen when he’s actually big enough to look like this. When the puberty that is rapidly approaching passes and we are left with a grown-up man with the behavior of a toddler? How will we keep him from hurting anyone? How will we keep him from hurting us?
One of his favorite things right now is wrapping his arms around me for a giant hug and then pushing me hard away from him a split second later. It’s a struggle now to keep my balance. What will happen when he’s stronger?
He’s ten-years-old currently, but looks closer to a five or six-year old which means he’s still cute. Strangers often smile at him, and when he acts out, are usually willing to give him a pass. What will happen when he’s not cute? When his endearing smile is not enough to keep him out of trouble?
We are already past the age that he’s portable, meaning easy to take with us places he doesn’t necessarily want to go. The days of wagons, strollers, and cart-riding are behind us and we are already feeling “stuck” at times. We’ve adjusted our lives so much with a “divide and conquer” approach of separate vehicles and “who’s going to stay home with Bo” conversations. We already assign a 1:1 to him when we go out. What will happen if 1:1 isn’t enough?
Frankly, I’m exhausted, frazzled, and a little sad, now. What will happen when it’s harder?
I’m reminded of the idiom about borrowing trouble. And I don’t want to do that. But, I DO want to prepare. So for now, we work really hard to curb the behaviors that are sure to only get more challenging with age. And, we try to offer him a safe place to land where he can decompress after a stressful experience. We adjust his meds for good sleep and see a psychiatric RN regularly. We’re working really hard on effective potty training for increased consistency.
I recognize that if I’d been given a glimpse six years ago into what caring for him looks like presently, I would’ve freaked out, too. And yet, we’re doing it. Not always well, and never easily, but we are getting through, day by day.
For now, I’m sticking with the hat and eyeglass filters and avoiding a glimpse into our future. I can’t handle tomorrow’s stress. Today has enough of its own. I don’t know exactly what the future looks like, but I do know…there will be grace for that.