"So Mom, are you excited?" my 14 year-old son Sean will ask.
"Hmmmm... let me think about that," my brain quietly will reply.
Raising children on the autism spectrum - regardless of where they are on that spectrum - can hardly be described as "exciting."
Exhausting. Overwhelming. Angry.
Emotionally and financially overextended.
A number of other words come to mind, but "excited"?
His constant monitoring of my excitement level is due to his entrance into high school this fall.
Sean is absolutely thrilled about it. As his parents, we couldnít be more proud.
Scared. Petrified. Worried.
Those are the words that will be associated with the days leading to and into that first year. Who knows if they ever will cease to be a part of the inner dialogue that takes over my every quiet moment?
We prepare for the "what ifs," but something always will catch us off guard.
That is what worries me the most.
Two years ago, mainstreaming wasnít even on the radar for Sean. And then one day a phone call. Countless visits, meetings and emails followed, and finally my autistic son was in a classroom without an aide, without a special seat, without a bin of fidget toys.
It seemed as if it had happened overnight - like a one-day pregnancy. Bam! Congratulations! I don't think I ever dared to dream about it.
tís not like I didnít want it. Oh, I did. But we-I-have always been careful about keeping the future open. It wasnít milestones that were going to measure Seanís success in life but rather baby steps.
I didnít mourn the loss of my son's potential when he was diagnosed in first grade. I didn't automatically think of all the things that he never would do.
Instead it was "Let's see what he can do and go from there..."
And now here he is, graduating from eighth grade with honors and heading into high school as a member of the Class of 2016.
As for dating, driving and Friday night football games, I will suppress those thoughts and worries for as long as I can.
It is, after all, about baby steps.
But for now, my son wants to know if I'm excited.
Honestly? I am.
I am excited for the road that lies ahead of him. I am excited about the many accomplishments heís achieved. I'm excited about all the times that he has fallen and failed and yet never given up.
Now if he could only remember to put on his deodorant every morning without me reminding him...
Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.
Frances Lehning is the mother of Sean, Carissa and Ashley. She lives in Elk Grove Village and blogs at mynameisnotautism.blogspot.com.