This Friday Peyton turns 18! I am approaching this birthday with both happiness, and a bit of regret. When my older kids became adults, I went through the normal stresses of did I prepare them for adulthood, were they ready to make “adult decisions” that would affect them the rest of their lives? I remember when Paul was looking at colleges and such, it was such a great experience, the excitement of his heading to college. I realized a few years ago that it would be different with Peyton, no matter what. Too often I get caught up in stressing about his future, that I forget to ask him what he wants and what he wants to do. When my older kids turned 16, I discussed with each one of them…their goals, plans and dreams for the future. I knew what they wanted to achieve, and then worked on a plan to help them achieve that. With Peyton it has always been different, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to have a say in his future.
A month ago I said to him “guess who is going to be 18 in a month!” I expected him to get excited and happy that he was going to be an adult. Instead he got so upset. I asked him what was wrong and what he responded with, hurt my heart. He told me he was afraid to be an adult, because of his autism he couldn’t talk that well, and didn’t feel like he was really an adult in many ways. I felt so bad for him, I sat down and had a long talk with him. I told him he was doing great and I see awesome growth in him all the time. Even though he is almost 18, he doesn’t feel like he is ready for what lies ahead. I felt really bad that I didn’t sit down with him at 16 and have his “goals & dreams” speech with him. Even though he may not completely understand what the conversation is, I should have given him the opportunity to have his thoughts heard. I realized that sometimes when I try to “protect” him I am actually “hurting” him. He needs to be able to make decisions more and have his views heard more.
We are planning to travel soon, and I have made a conscious decision to include him in the plans, and listen to him more. I can’t tell him he is an adult, but treat him like a child. He may not be ready to be “an adult” yet, but time doesn’t stop because he isn’t ready. I know it needs to be a team effort between he and I for him to become an “adult” He may never be able to live on his own, drive a car etc… But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be given the opportunity to try. It also doesn’t mean he isn’t entitled to his own voice. We all become “true adults” at our own pace. Peyton may take a bit longer, and may never be one by others definition. However; I feel very confident that given the right support and encouragement he will be an awesome “adult” Happy 18th Birthday Peyton, I love you with all my heart!