When Lizzie turned 12-years old last December, she appropriately labeled herself as a “preteen.” She was very excited about this new chapter in her life and began craving independence like mad. No longer was I allowed come in when taking her to gymnastics. Instead, I was only permitted a quick drop off at the front door. When I asked her to do simple tasks such as clear her dish to the counter, she began to groan and say, ”Moooooooooom!” in protest, as if she was offended that I would even ask her. I also noticed that asking a preteen to take something up the stairs when she was already on her way up was simply beneath her. How could she bend down to pick up something that was hers?
Lizzie requested I stopped treating her like a toddler and insisted that I was no longer allowed to tuck her in bed at night. I responded that she could “forget it” and that even when she was married with three kids, I would still come over and tuck her and her husband in. As you can imagine, that went over real well with her literal thinking.
This past summer, she began begging to fly all by herself and spend a whole week with our extended family in Chicago. I was a little apprehensive (actually terrified) because even my typical 14-year old son had yet to do something this independent. But Lizzie put her plan into action by selling some of her American Girl Dolls (apparently preteens are too old for dolls, as well) and saved up enough money for the flight. How could I say no?
The flight was booked and the arrangements were made with our family. When the day arrived, butterflies turned over in my stomach, and I second guessed my decision to let her go. Would she really be ok flying by herself? What if the flight was delayed? What if there was a storm? What if the flight was redirected to another airport and there was no one there for her? Would she really be able to handle it if something unexpected happened?
Then I reminded myself that these worries were the same worries any parent of a typical child would have. Autism didn’t make these concerns any different, and I no longer needed to revolve my life around avoiding the unexpected. We had prepared her as well as we could, and that would have to be enough. It was up to her now.
So as I hugged her one more time and watched her disappear down the gate to her flight, I remembered the two-year old girl who used to bang her head on the ground, flap her arms and talk in jibberish all day long. And I thanked God for the opportunity to be anxious about the plane ride today because that meant we had overcome the challenges of yesterday.
Julie Hornok is a short story writer, blogger, editor and passionate advocate for families living with autism. Her works have been seen in The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s, The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives, The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back, Thrive Magazine, www.dfwchild.com, and the Dallas Morning News Dallas Moms Blog. She is currently the editor of the National Autism Association of North Texas newsletter. When Julie isn’t busy driving her 3 kids all over the DFW Metroplex, she loves to give back to the community by planning special needs events. She also loves to share with others the benefits of Young Living Essential Oils. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.juliehornok.com.