After school today, Chef and I immediately went out to do some errands. Chef waited for me on the deck and did some exercises while he waited, then we headed over to the thrift shop so he could pick up some rags and some new boots. We bought his most recent pair last month and he has worn them for two or three weeks; the backs are ripped open and, because Chef is in his "no hygiene mode" and not usually wearing socks, they're smelling ripe enough to be noticed by school staff. A couple of years back, a local store was closing down and were selling hiking boots for $3/pair. I bought nine pairs and, if I remember correctly, Chef went through seven of them that year.
While we were walking around town, Chef and I chatted about school and Christmas preparations. Chef has been able to take a digital publishing course that is for students one grade higher than he is, and that is his shining star this term. He was thrilled that he could take the course, and has been thrilled with the actual course itself. Chef has been saving all his digital publishing creations in his room; no small feat for a young man who is drawn to make a piece of paper into tiny bits of paper. He has them all laid out nicely on his dresser. This is the very first time in his life, at least to my memory, that he has ever taken care of something this long without getting rid of it or taking it apart. I have never seen Chef take such pride in anything else that he's created.
We haven't eaten out for a very long, so I decided we'd stop in at a local cafe where two can dine on well-prepared, homemade food for less than $12. Chef was immediately reading all papers he could get his hands on, and was soon describing to me a number of health-food catalogue items along with their prices. Interspersed with this information was a description of the level Chef has achieved in a fantastic computer game he plays at school which simulates life goals such as career, finances, relationships, etc., and how to achieve them. Chef is playing brilliantly, and shared with me how he knows it's good to have a credit rating but not good to use credit cards, the importance of paying his bills and saving for what he wants, etc. Chef feels very successful in his virtual life. He has four diplomas and is now working on his virtual BA which he has already paid off. He is considering a virtual future in IT. When I told him that is probably a good consideration for him after high school as well, he said he didn't know what IT was. I asked what it was in the game he plays. "I don't know. I just know that they make pretty good money."
Chef and I talked about what food we'd like to make for Christmas day and throughout the holidays. Chef was very very focussed on bananas and had some difficulty moving from that topic, but we came up with a good list of possibilities.
When we came home, Chef immediately and quickly did the dishes and finished his laundry without any prompting whatsoever! He still has the floor to sweep tomorrow, then we'll be back at the thrift shop so Chef can pick up some clothes and socks to replace the ones that have recently disappeared, then we're off to the local art center for an afternoon of painting. I'm hoping tomorrow is a tantrum-free day.
This blog was initially set up as a means of communicating with my son's team. Since then, I've heard from other parents with similar stories. If you are living with challenges or journeying alongside someone who is, you are not alone. There are many of us. I'm a single adoptive Mom (http://richesofsimplicity.blogspot.com/) of a young man who lives with many abilities and many diagnoses. We have journeyed together through many challenges and a few adventures over the years as my son has tried to find space in this world that makes him feel more comfortable, an attempt made especially difficult when living with Attachment Disorder, PDD-NOS (Autism), Developmental Coordination Disorder, ADHD, prenatal substance exposure, etc. Some of the strongest elements used in this journey have been music, visual arts, therapeutic parenting, team-connection, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, boundary-setting, communication skills, community-building, continual lifeskills training, and elements of Theraplay. (Click here for some written resources.) On this journey, there is laughter and tears and growth and hope. The greatest of these is hope.