Back in 1988, I was 12 going on 13 and was in grade 7. It was my first year of high school and I was the exact same age that my daughter is now.
But things were very different for me than it is for her in a LOT of ways. The world was a completely different place.
1988 was the year that the Summer Olympics were held in Seoul and it was also the year that CDs out-sold vinyl records for the first time. Australia had it Bi-centenary that was celebrated with a huge expo in Brisbane and I went twice. It was magnificent!
That year was also the first time anyone had heard the phrases: “Just do it” (Nike) and “I’m not bad – I’m just drawn that way” (by the now famous fictional Jessica Rabbit).
We were watching films like: ‘Rain Man’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ ‘Big’ and ‘Twins’ and listening to ‘The Beach Boys’, ‘Bros’, ‘Gloria Estefan’ and ‘Guns N’ Roses’.
The TV shows that were popular were ‘Cheers’, ‘The Golden Girls’, ‘Growing Pains’ and ‘Who’s the Boss’ and were very tame in comparison to a lot of the crime based shows that are around nowadays.
These were the pre-technology years in most homes. No-one I knew had a home computer, mobile phones weren’t yet invented and the town I lived in only had 2 TV channels available.
Even so, I remember being generally happy with life because people actually got together in person to talk and to “be” together and technology hadn’t yet changed everyone’s perception of friendship.
But then again, when I was 13, I didn’t have little brothers. And I didn’t have autism in my family. I didn’t know what autism was and I certainly wasn’t expected to do half the things that my daughter does just to help us stay afloat.
I didn’t need to help my Mum cook so that she could be a referee to my siblings, I didn’t sit in boring therapy waiting rooms for hours while one of my brothers had an appointment and I didn’t have to endure hours of screaming, crying, whining and meltdowns at all hours.
I was able to sleep through the night without being woken and our family was able to go out and enjoy being together without an escape plan firmly in place.
I was never expected to put up with being physically attacked and emotionally drained and I wasn’t constantly being put last (un-intentionally) because my brothers had higher needs than me.
I wasn’t living in a house filled with visual schedules, sensory areas and autism-friendly reminders stuck to the walls. I was just your typical teen without a care in the world.
My parents never asked me to bath, dress and feed my brothers and I never once had to think like an adult when I wasn’t cognitively there yet.
I NEVER had to phone my Grandma because I was concerned that my Mum was unresponsive and lying on the kitchen floor sobbing mid-nervous breakdown in a puddle of tears and the hardest thing I’d ever had to deal with was breaking up with a boyfriend who I’d never even had a face-to-face conversation with!
My days consisted of school, homework and then free time to do with whatever I pleased and after school was the time for TV, phone calls with friends and relaxing. NOT avoiding stress by locking myself in my room with my pillow over my head.
My own Mum always had time for me. She ‘made’ time for me and I had a sister who was only 14 months younger whom I adored. (And still do). Life really was pretty smooth sailing and I have to admit that I never really appreciated it for what it was.
I guess you could say that I really had no idea of know what hard was.
But my Ella does.
And I absolutely hate that being 12 is so demanding for her.
I would love to allow her to just ‘be’ a pre-teen. I want her to have the fun that I did. I want her to be able to come home to a quiet house where she feels free to unwind from her day without the constant drama that autism has brought into her life.
I want her to be able to have friends over without worrying that they will see one of the boys in action. I saw the look on her face the day that Harley lost it in front of a friend who had slept over. I felt for Harley but I also felt for her. I remember being that age and the torment of feeling ‘different’ and ‘unusual’.
I don’t like that she has to shoulder so much responsibility but I ‘do’ believe that one day she will grow into a stronger woman because of this.
She really is a beautiful child. Sure, we’ve had some interesting times with her lately but I think that this just comes with the age. Most teens push boundaries, have attitude and try their luck at times.
And she is no different. But I am making a point of telling her frequently just how much her Dad and I appreciate and love her. She has been an absolute rock to me and my heart swells with pride every time I see her tenderly reach down and hug one of her brothers. I know they drive her as crazy as they drive me but she never fails to amaze me with the depth of her compassion for them.
She may have it rough now but I can guarantee you that this one is going to grow into and amazingly resilient young woman who is shaped by her youth and her resilience will surprise even her.
And womanhood really isn’t that far away * bites fingernails* The pride that I feel when she exhibits such maturity is what continues to give me peace in those times where I wish that her life could be different.
I really truly do know that I am blessed. :)