Dear adult friends of my son with a disability,
He still needs you.
Really, it is that simple. He still needs you and he always will.
You’ve been through a lot together. Some of you have known him since you were 5 and walked through those great big doors at Eastview to start kindergarten.
You were with him and friends before you realized he was “different”. From the start, you accepted and loved him. Before I ever walked into your classroom and asked you to, you loved and accepted him.
When you were in 2nd grade, for full of nerves and tears, I stood in front of you for the first time to explain Fragile X Syndrome. I would come back for many years to keep sharing more information with you, over the years you all became experts soaking in the knowledge and using it to be the best friend you could be with him.
Over time, you saw the most challenging moments in our lives. You watched my sweet little boy hide under desks, clear everything off shelves and desks when frustrated, and sheer fear as he changed schools from the grade school to the middle school to the high school. And you stood right by him, through it all and in turn, you saw the very best moments from him, too. You saw him stand proudly with you through music concerts, climb the wall at Outward Ingersoll, and walk the stage after being crowned prom king.
And in a day that came entirely too fast, you watched him walk with you onto the football field and across the stage, with Rylee in tow, for your high school graduation.
We reached those moments together, often with me in tears of either pride or fear, as a class and as a community. We were a part of his every success.
I asked you for a promise, shortly before graduation, that I knew was huge. I knew it was bigger than you could fully grasp at that time but I knew it needed to be asked. I knew it would come with the best of intentions and the biggest of challenges. I asked to you promise me that you would stay in his life.
I asked that as you started your adult lives, in college and in the workforce, that you continued to involve him. That as you got married and started families, that you continue to involve him.
I know friendships come and go. But friendships for us are much easier than friendships for Parker. You will meet new people through school and work and life experiences in general. Parker will too, but not with the ability that we have to create and foster friendships through opportunities.
But, it is also bigger than that. Way bigger. It goes beyond him not being able to understand why you stop coming to see him. It goes beyond the sadness and being alone. It is so much bigger…
I want you to think back to when I would come into the school and talk to you. While I added new information every year, I also repeated something every single time. “He learns from watching you.” “You are his greatest teacher.”
Parker will always be learning, just like you, for his entire life. He needs you, to help him navigate adulthood. He needs you to understand this new world and how to function in it. The more you do with him, the more he is able to model your behaviors. This is also why I have always said, you have to be on your best behavior with him. He is watching you, modeling you, repeating you. You are and will always be, his greatest teachers.
While we love to have you visit at the house and you are always, always, welcome here, the biggest moments for Parker is when you take him out. When you pick him up and go out to eat or take him to a movie or basketball/football game – he is watching you, he is learning. He watches how you order food, how you interact with people around you, how you respond to every situation. He is learning…still, from you. You will always be his greatest teacher.
And he LOVES this time! He loves to feel independent, to take off and go with his friends, to do things just like you – with you.
Now that some time has passed since your graduation and your lives are becoming more busy, more complex – I ask you, again, to promise me you will always take time to step away from the chaos, to slow down and enjoy some time with my son. To pick him up and take him out for chicken nuggets, to a movie or game. Take time to slow down and enjoy the simple moments that make us laugh, appreciate the things we take for granted, to remember how much you continue to learn from him, too.
He is always going to need you. I am not always going to be here to ask or remind you. I need to know that without me asking you will still be here. When you have families, you will introduce him to your children, you will involve them in your outings with him. We know they will be better for knowing him, too. He loves babies. Loves them! That said, do not rush into starting families 😉 He isn’t going anywhere, take your time!
Parker is so lucky. He has friends who continue to make time for him. He loves these moments and talks about them endlessly. As his mom, I appreciate you and the time you make for him. Please don’t stop. He’s always going to need you.
And, if you haven’t seen him in a while and would like to hang out with him, let me know – he loves to fill up the dates on his calendar with plans.
It may seem like as life has kept moving forward that he doesn’t need you, but that’s simply not true. He continues to need you now as much as he ever has… and I have a feeling you need him, too.