1. I am always learning something new about my 16 year old. We typically begin our school prep about 2 weeks before the first day, so the transition from summer to school runs as smoothly as possible. For the first time, this included TJ wanting all of his school supplies put together and organized way ahead of time! Such a difference from last year’s night-before-first-day-of-classes madness! So not only am I learning what works best for TJ from year to year, TJ is learning what he prefers, communicating his needs clearly, and not waiting until the last minute. Win-win!
2. Being a Junior has perks! Our high school uses a schedule of alternating days (A day, then B day, then A day….). If you are a Junior and you don’t have a scheduled class, you can leave campus. On A days, TJ has no first period classes or last period classes. And nothing beats the grin on that kid’s face when I drop him off on A days, after everyone else has already been there for over and hour. “See you in 4 hours mom!” Huge grin, every time. We are 5 weeks in and the novelty has yet to wear off on him. It’s a really good grin.
3. At the start of every year I am reminded that his new teachers have yet to know the true TJ. He is a fantastic and funny kid, he is good natured and eager to please, and he loves to make people laugh. On his first day of school, TJ had Geometry when he thought he had lunch. His special educator found him in the cafeteria and told him calmly of his mistake - emphasizing that it’s such an easy mistake to make and he is not in trouble at all. At this point I was told 2 things: (1) TJ walks really fast when he wants to, and (2) he isn’t shy in front of people he doesn’t know. Apparently, when he got to his classroom late, he announced (loudly) “Sorry I’m late - my schedule screwed me over!” The kids laughed, which made TJ happy. I was told that his geometry teacher looked a little puzzled but smiled, and welcomed him immediately. She doesn’t know TJ yet, or his sense of humor. But she will.
4. TJ will never not want snack. He will need his goldfish in a ziplock bag every day until he is old and grey. That’s just the way it is.
5. TJ showing his little brother, and incoming freshman, Peter around the high school this summer was a great idea that they both benefitted from: Peter has a leg up in knowing his way around, and TJ is so proud of helping his brother out. He doesn’t get a lot of those opportunities, so grabbing this one is important.
6. TJ hates homework. This hasn’t changed. It’s all about our attitude regarding homework as parents, and following a homework routine. A calm Mom makes for a calm TJ. Breathe.
7. Save math homework help for Dad. See number 6.
8. As TJ’s Mom, it is so important for me to remember to check my email multiple times throughout his day. TJ’s special educator will send me questions and/or issues throughout his day, some which require a prompt response. For example, TJ’s best buddy Colby was going to take TJ out for ice cream after school - Colby has his license and it’s their first outing without any parents. I got an email from his special educator, SM, saying that TJ was upset that I had forgotten to give him his ice cream money. My quick reply stopped TJ’s worry - Colby was to pick up TJ at home after school, and I will pick up TJ at the regular time. Immediately SM replied, “Great - all cleared up. TJ feels much better - he will see you at the regular pick-up time.” Crisis averted! And TJ and Colby, plus another friend, had a great time getting ice cream on their own.
9. TJ’s classmates really love him. We live in a very supportive community with a fantastic school system - I am so grateful for this. Everyday.
10. Hard work pays off. TJ has worked so hard every day since his autism diagnosis, and I worried so much about his future and what it would look like. Now that he is 16, I see a strong, smart, independent, thoughtful, confident young man standing before me, who can make any future for himself that he chooses. I still worry, of course, but he advocates for himself so well every day, that I am letting go of so much of that worry. He knows what is good for him and what isn’t. He speaks his mind. He stands up for himself. He works hard. He communicates his needs clearly (for the most part - this one is a huge work in progress). He is proud of who he is.
To say that I am proud of him doesn’t even come close.