In many ways, Janey's world and the one I lived at her age don't have many interacting points. She doesn't live a life which is in any way at all like most 13 year olds in 7th grade. That makes me sad, often, but I don't think it makes her sad. The last year or so, most of the time she's seemed pretty happy with her life. We've fallen into a routine that works for her. She knows the steps to get ready in the morning for school, she gets eagerly on the bus, she comes home and we go to get a snack at the store, she watches some TV, Daddy gets home, we eat supper, Janey and Daddy go for a car ride, they get home, we get ready for bed, she goes to sleep. That's her days. On the weekend, more TV, more car rides, more watching Daddy cook, more of the same.
Janey doesn't know you aren't supposed to wear sneakers with a dress. I guess I didn't either, but she's not going to be schooled in it. She doesn't care. She's not going to have many of the small moments of hurt and sadness that the teenage years bring. She's not going to hear the news and fear from it, not going to have the arching pain of a first crush, not going to have papers or reports or projects due on a deadline, not going to worry about test grades, not going to suffer the lingering sadness of broken friendships. There is much she's not going to feel, and I have to say---that's not all bad. When I say I wish she could feel those things, there is part of me that is glad she won't. Life, typical life, everyday life, has a lot of pain.
Is it okay that I sometimes rejoice in Janey exactly how she is, that I rejoice in the parts of her that are deeply connected with the autism? Am I supposed to only feel happy when she is able to simulate normal? Can I feel happy that she jumps up and down and screams with joy that we say yes to McDonalds? Can I get teary-eyed at her beauty as she wears the clothes I picked for her, clothes that might not be the style for her age, clothes that are a mother's vision of how I want her to look? Can I be glad she will always love Tony and me with an innocence that is non-critical, that never tackles the complicated tensions that arise as a child's relationship with parents changes as the child becomes an adult? Can I look at her, waiting eagerly for the bus, in her skirt and sneakers, with her hair done inexpertly by me, and feel joy in exactly who she is?
I hope I can.