I remember watching my daughter when she was young, sifting sand through her fingers and watching it fall, right beside a group of kids her age. They would be digging and pouring and building together and she would be cupping and lifting and watching sand separate. Never once did she look their way or wonder how she might join in to a game considered fun by any three year-old whose toes have touched sand. I wondered if she would ever have friends, if she would ever want to make them, if she would ever know how. Now she is a teenager and parenting during the making and keeping of friends is a little bit like walking a tightrope. You tiptoe along, hope to maintain a balance between offering love and support, and encouraging independence and confidence. And then you realize having a teenager with autism is like walking a tightrope with no net. To be the parent my daughter needs me to be I have to send her off into the world each day. I have to hope that people are kind, accepting and forgiving. I have to cross my fingers and toes that her path crosses people who are understanding and supportive. Thank goodness for my daughter, my sanity and her high school career, she has found friendship. She has found, not just someone who is nice and sweet and answers the phone when she calls (even if it is one time too many), but someone who is truly a friend. My sweet girl has found someone who sees past her autism, makes sure she is included and speaks up when she is not. She has found someone who likes her for the amazing person I see each and everyday, who offers her patience and understanding and a smile, no matter what. I don’t think her friend will ever truly realize the gift she has given to all of us. The “net” she has provided, not only to my daughter, but to me as well. The tightrope walk of raising a teenager with autism is just a little bit easier knowing she has a true friend keeping her balanced each day.
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