When Charlie was about 11 or 12, I'd feel sad every time he got on a carnival ride. He was always the biggest kid even then -- he only likes a very few rides, none of the, 'big kid grown up' ones, like mega-twisty-fast-high roller coasters - and it seemed terrible that here was something he got such joy out of, going round and round on Ferris wheels and swings or down the giant slide or bouncing and jerking on the 'frog hopper,' and it singled him out as the 'different kid.'
At the local festa we went to on Saturday night with my parents, all the kids Charlie's age were in high passeggiata mode, the girls in cut-off jean shorts, tank tops, long hair all over the place and the boys in a version of what Charlie wears but rumpled in a more stylin' kind of way. They went for the more intense rides or didn't even bother.
Charlie got a long Ferris wheel ride and a solo swing ride (this festa had no slide or frog hopper) and then wanted the car. Jim got a really good gyro and we ended up at the ultra-clean McDonalds down the road and I practically gagged after trying a really salty fry.
Then Charlie was up till 5am on Sunday. He had been up till 4am the night before and taken an hour nap in the afternoon.
I've grown accustomed to his teenage hours and sleep pattern. It would be nice, it is true, to have an honestly restful night of sleep, but (while he's not sleeping) Charlie has been in a quite cheery mood in the past several (i.e., rather frequent) insomnia episodes. He paces, he listens to the Beatles and Teletubbies, he watches videos, he sits in his brown chair, he tries to lie down. But he is not frenetic and in unease as he routinely used to be on such nights; perhaps Jim's and my shrug and not telling him to go to bed are helping.
It's been a sleepy, sticky hot summer, and there have been those moments, the one percent of the time when Charlie's anxieties have burst forth and reinforced (to some on this street) that we are 'the family with the child with needs/special child/[insert less euphemistic adjective] kid' -- something else, after more than ten years in our beloved house, we've also a grown accustomed to. If there is one thing an autismland life can teach you, it is not to heed external standards of success, achievement or such -- 'status anxiety' is a foreign term to us -- and to rely on internal measures to determine accomplishment and when you and your child are doing good.
By any standards, we are having a great summer.