Last night, I saw my sweet boy for the first time as a grown young man. My dream was so real. Until now, I really hadn’t been able to picture him outside of toddlerhood. I kind of blame that on autism. Maybe it’s the language barrier between us, or the discomfort of not knowing exactly what his future looks like. For some reason I just couldn’t picture him, or didn’t allow myself to try.
He was big, taller than me. Happy and gentle. And strong. He clung tightly to my arm as we walked through a busy hotel lobby, I could tell the noise and new space made him uneasy.
I was so proud of him. He had grown so much and made progress beyond my expectations. As a family, we were enjoying our time outside at the hotel pool when the all-too-familiar panic set in.
I lost him.
I frantically ran through the busy hotel, the pool, the restaurants, and lobby searching and asking strangers if they had seen him.
The panic really set in when I realized that no one seemed to meet me at my level of concern. It wasn’t a missing child, after all. I was looking for a grown man.
A teen annoyed with his mom, or a young man running an errand, a miscommunication, they probably thought. But my young man was still a boy, really, and he will not find his way back, and certain lights and sounds literally cause him pain, and he takes almost everything literally and he could walk right into traffic…but how do you explain all of that when you are hysterical?
This dream topped all the heart-pounding ones of the past: the missed college exams, waitressing in the weeds, falling. I’ve had a pit in my stomach all day about it. It was just a dream, but one that very easily could be our reality.
Wandering (or eloping) is a concern that parents of children with autism deal with long after the toddler years.
That fear may never go away. And that’s ok.
We will continue riding the waves of autism with our sweet boy. The highs, the progress, remind us to remain hopeful. The regressions keep us resilient. They keep us fighting for better.
I am so thankful for the recent progress we’ve seen in our boy. Even though this dream ended with a large dose of our autism reality, it gave me the gift of a little glimpse of who he can become. And I am more excited than ever.