I was 22 when Sam was born. That's only five years older than he is now. This blows my mind. Who decided that was a good idea? John and I certainly didn't plan on having a baby when we were so young, but I guess Sam's maker had a plan for when he first entered the scene.
When you're a kid you have this idea that all the grownups in your life know exactly what they're doing. Like when they turned 18, someone gave them a certificate and a manual and they were all set. Like there's a grand list in their pockets that tells them everything that's expected of them from the younger people in their lives. Like there's some magic book with the answer to all of life's mysteries, and all the adults in the world have a key.
But when I turned 18, all I got was a cookie cake and a surprise party in my dorm room.
Three years and 27 days later, I walked down the aisle and promised to spend the rest of my life with just one man. Again, who dreams up these crazy plans? Who actually has the hope (or the idiocy) to believe that they will work?
Thankfully, in my case, it has. So far anyway. But that doesn't mean we haven't had some casualties along the way. Doesn't everyone?
When I got pregnant with Sam, there was only one book parents were talking about: What to Expect When You're Expecting. I guess I read about a chapter a month for nine months, paying special attention to the chapters on birth and delivery. When Sam was born, someone bought us the sequel: What to Expect the First Year. I treated it more like a guide book than a prescription. That's how things were before Social Media. There were not so many camps to choose from, and the members of those camps had a lot more grace for those outside their fences. I shudder at the idea of being a new mom in the digital age. Bless all of you who are doing it now.
When Sam was three, he taught himself to read. Yes, you read that right. He watched a lot of Sesame Street back then and one day he realized that all the letters he knew made sounds, so he started asking me what those sounds were. After a couple of weeks, he had all the letters and sounds memorized, and not long after that, he started putting the sounds together when he saw their corresponding letters on the page.
We'd known Sam was not your ordinary child before that, but this gave us something concrete. This kid was a genius. (Aha!) Just look what we created! (Wow-wee!) Isn't he so awesome? (Brag, brag) We must be pretty cool, too. (Let's pat ourselves on the back, shall we?)
Sam has continued to excel in intellectual and academic arenas ever since, but socially and emotionally, he's had some struggles. We took him to various experts when he was younger. We asked all the questions we knew to ask. They tested him in all the areas they knew to test, but the answers we got were inconclusive. We were about five years ahead of the non-textbook definition of Asperger's syndrome. People told us Sam was close, but not enough that we needed to label him.
Ten years later, we wish we would have known more. We wish we could have gotten more help. We wish we would have learned how to protect him, and how to educate all the people who would be in his life, so they couldn't hurt him in all the ways he's been hurt. So we wouldn't be responsible for hurting him as well.
But there's no for me way to change the past, and whenever I obsess about it, I stop moving forward. You do the best you can do. That's all anyone is able to do. Really. I promise. (I'm reminding myself here, too).
Sam passed his driver's test a few weeks ago, so I've been adjusting to watching him back out of the driveway all by himself. Then I go in the kitchen and stand by my phone until I get the "made it here safe" text. There's only one more year of high school left for this guy, and perhaps it will be his last year living at home as well. I hope he won't be driving away that soon, but I can't predict or control the future. None of us can; no matter how hard we try. Turns out bad habits are still hard to break, but this year I'd like to replace worry with prayer. Here's one for today:
Lord, please bless and keep my son, Sam. Be gracious to him. Jesus, turn your shining face toward Sam and give him peace. And maybe one day Sam will share some of that peace with me, too. That would be a special kind of grace, Father. You know how much we both need it. Thanks for all the grace you've given so far. May your precious love cover the many mistakes we've made along the way.