Twenty one years ago today, I had a baby my future ex-hubby (how’s it going, dude!) and I named Shannon. So, it would follow today is her 21st birthday. Traditionally (and legally) considered a very significant achievement in our western culture as it marks the official legal transition in our society from adolescent to full fledged adult. From this point onward any person celebrating this natal day is fully entitled to drink, to vote, to die for their country and be held accountable for everything they do as a full fledged grown up. (Well, as much as any of us are held accountable for anything these days, or so at times it would seem).
It’s a birthday most of us couldn’t wait to have, because it represented not just being able to legally hit the bar (although here in the Great White North aka Canada we only have to wait ’til 19) but true freedom. We were ‘officially’ all grown up, and could do whatever we wanted, and no one could tell us we couldn’t any more. (or so we thought.) For a parent, this day comes with an equal measure of pride and the bittersweet knowledge whether they’ve actually left home or not, the chick has flown the nest. Though you’ll always be there for them, the job is essentially done.
There are always exceptions to every rule. Sometimes the job will never be done. And we’re not talking here about the forty year old still living in their parents’ basement or a parental inability to cut the cord no matter how old the offspring becomes.
When Shannon was twenty three months old the medical profession confirmed for me something I’d been suspecting practically since she was born by returning a diagnosis of autism. Learning at that time she did indeed possess some special challenges in life was not the same as knowing how they would affect her, and if any of the hopes and dreams any parent has for their child – if even the simplest of them would come to pass for her.
Back then, I had no idea what to expect, what to hope for her, whether to dare to reach as high as wishing she could one day say my name, or want to look me in the eye, give me a big hug and say “I love you.”
Well, I’m happy to say, Shannon can do that, and a whole lot more. The intervening years have not been easy, but my girl has made remarkable strides. While it’s true there are things she will never be able to do, the things she can I hardly dared to believe would ever be possible for her? I couldn’t be prouder of her.
She is amazing. She’s also been my greatest life teacher. No, she will never vote – or drink – or even leave home, and in the real sense my job is never going to be done, so maybe as the world measures these things, for Shannon, turning 21 is just another birthday but you see, when it comes to Shannon, every day is a milestone, every day a gift, and every day, in every way, she never ceases to amaze.
Not sure what my point is here, but whatever it is, I wanted to share. Thanks for listening.