When I asked Isaac the same question, he said, “YMCA.”
Last weekend we celebrated the twins’ birthdays with a house full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We ate lunch, and Isaac hung around long enough to open presents. When it was time to sing “Happy Birthday”, Isaac ran down the hall, shrieking and laughing, returning to the kitchen just in time to blow out the lone candle on his chocolate cake. Noah sat at the kitchen table while our family sang off key. (I’m sure that bothered him, but he never said so.) After he effortlessly blew out the candle, he admitted he forgot to make a wish.
As the mom, it’s easy for me to believe they’re fourteen. That seems about right.
When Isaac and Noah were small, it was difficult to imagine them as fourteen-year-old boys. Actually it was impossible to think about anything except the present moment because we were so busy juggling our challenges. Our world of autism revolved around appointments: speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and feeding therapy. Isaac’s sleeping was erratic at best and non-existent at worst. We were sleep deprived in the midst of navigating special ed preschool and special diets. It was a struggle for me to safely take them into the community by myself. Some days I felt like I battled more before 8:00 a.m. than most people do all day.
I’ve heard people say about raising kids, “The days are long, but the years are short.” But sometimes the years are long -- and the days are even longer.
I’m grateful life has gotten much easier. We’ve all grown and stretched and learned along our journey. We’re still standing.
My twin sons with autism are fourteen years old. What does it look like?
Fourteen is laughing and playing with cousins, no matter their age.
Fourteen is never having stayed overnight at a friend’s house for a sleepover.
Fourteen is opening a birthday present, finding a basketball inside, and shooting hoops for hours afterwards.
Fourteen is Isaac spontaneously saying “I love you” when I took him to the grocery store.
Fourteen is thinking about high school course selection and college admission requirements.
Fourteen is completing paperwork for Isaac’s transition planning. Fourteen is asking difficult questions: Where do you see your child living after graduation? What kind of tasks/activities does your child need to learn to become more independent? Fourteen is having no answers, just a few short years to figure it out.
Fourteen is being on the honor roll.
Fourteen is not wanting a cell phone.
Fourteen is Isaac constantly asking for my computer password and laughing when I say, “Clean the toilet first and then I’ll give you the password.”
Fourteen is being proud of my boys and who they have become. Fourteen is being kind, helpful, and respectful. Fourteen is loving school. Fourteen is loving family.
Fourteen is hearing a stranger in the school parking lot turn to Noah and say, “Boy, you did a great job singing that solo tonight.” Fourteen is not being afraid of singing in front of a few hundred people.
Fourteen is going for a walk so we can discuss what happened during the day.
Fourteen is feeling anxious when the school bus doesn’t show up by 8:18 a.m.
Fourteen is being unable to ride a bicycle or tie shoes.
Fourteen is acne.
Fourteen is growing several inches taller in one year.
Fourteen is a dark mustache that will be shaved someday, perhaps when food gets caught in it? Who knows?
Fourteen is wanting to be kissed every night before going to sleep.
Fourteen is Isaac buying an oversized foam bat and ball with birthday money at Target. Fourteen is the teacher telling me he’s playing t-ball in PE class. (So that’s why he wanted to buy a bat and ball . . .)
Fourteen is Noah buying a video game with birthday money -- oh, and a Star Wars t-shirt.
Fourteen is Isaac coming home from school and immediately wanting the keys to the van. Fourteen is typing “I want car please” on a speech generating device.
Fourteen is having no interest in getting a driver’s permit.
Fourteen is the routine of going to the rec center Monday, the grocery store Tuesday, the YMCA Wednesday, recycling Thursday, and pizza for dinner Friday.
Fourteen is Noah being busy with a summer of jazz band, trombone lessons, youth theatre, and swimming.
Fourteen is the heartbreaking ending of the school year in May.
Fourteen is hanging out with a younger brother, who is both a best friend and an annoyance.
Fourteen is Isaac being busy with summer school, Bible school, water slides, the YMCA, and driving around town. Fourteen is going to the pool every day (with a chaperone), even when the weather is cold but the pool is open.
Fourteen is coming home from school and eating us out of house and home. Fourteen is having high metabolism.
Fourteen is being happy and alone with a video game and a snack.
Fourteen is never having walked around the block alone.
Fourteen is Isaac never having stayed at home alone, even for five minutes.
Fourteen is having no interest in attending a school dance.
Fourteen is wanting independence but still needing security.
Fourteen is Noah sharing details about the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980.
Fourteen is Isaac at school announcing the arrival of the school buses at the end of the day. Fourteen is growing in self-confidence with his speech generating device.
Fourteen is Noah being thrilled about weekly 6:45 a.m. jazz band rehearsals. Fourteen is getting up at 5:45 a.m. and happily making breakfast.
Fourteen is Isaac asking for help when the toilet is clogged and applauding when Dad successfully uses the plunger.
Fourteen is Noah saying that Isaac is the sweetest brother in the whole world.
Fourteen is a chocolate cake with red frosting, a white cake with blue frosting, two beautiful boys, two burning candles, and the whole world ahead of them.