Monday, June 30, 2014

The End of Cute; The Beginning of Awesome!

"It's the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance,  
It's the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance, 
It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give,
and the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.
 When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, 
just remember, 
in the winter, 
far beneath the bitter snows, 
lies the seed that with the sun's love, 
in the spring, 
becomes the rose."
--The Rose, sung by Bette Midler 

Way back in 1999, when Patrick was just a few months old, I read this essay by a father who had an 18 year old son with Down Syndrome named Ned.
It's titled "The End of Cute" and I have to say that the title alone has haunted me.
Here's the link to read it in its entirety:

At the time, I had a six year old, a four year old and a brand new baby...I was drowning in cute.
I was soaked in imaginative worlds, fairy tales, magic and just plain adorableness.
The thought of having that era come to an end was stomach-twisting.
Contemplating my adorable three-some as teen-agers was located somewhere on the continuum 
of cringe-worthy and full on freak out.

I couldn't imagine the controversy, the angst, the embarrassment and the fear...

funny, since I was already living it.big.time.

Teen-agers are just bigger kids.

More capable, more thought-provoking, more powerful in almost every way.

They are damned amazing.

And yes, crazy-making too.

But I am here to say that although cute does end...
it gets awesome.
WAY more awesome.

I wish I had known that.

Teen-agers have a bias against them...our culture pretty much complains about them, 
blames them and points to them as our downfall.
That's hogwash.

The teenagers and young adults I know are more culturally aware, more sensitive to every single kind of prejudice around, more focused on truth, more globally aware, more able to solve their problems and search for answers than most adults I know.

I have extreme joy knowing that they are coming behind us.
They want to make the world a better place.

They don't just travel to Europe, they volunteer in orphanages and elephant sanctuaries 
or reach out to people in poverty.
They find a way.
They work together.
They believe it can be solved.

Patrick, my son with Down Syndrome who is one day away from being 15, didn't just go to a camp.  He spent time writing a letter to a family that has a brand new baby with Down Syndrome, letting them know all about his life and what he is passionate about.

Yep, he gave back.

And he can cook, and spend hours listening to music or writing scripts and dreaming of what will be.

He's like pretty much any teen-ager I know and you're right, it's not cute...
in fact he'd be offended if I told him he was cute.

  He's awesome!

The process of watching your child become an adult is humbling, fascinating, and a wonder.
Having a front row seat is a gift.

You get to guide, struggle, recommend and nudge.
The real control starts to fade away.
And that's where it gets interesting.

No, it's not always easy or smooth...but neither is parenting a toddler.
 I have had times where I've been yelling so loud that I thought someone might knock on my door and ask what the heck was going on.

I've sobbed at the changes, been sleepless with worry and had moments of sheer panic...
but didn't I have that with my two year old too?

The stakes are higher.
It isn't cute.

But I'm here to say that I've lived with three teen-agers and have one more waiting backstage and 
it's nothing to dread.

It's freaking awesome.

Happy 15th Birthday, Patrick! Happy 19th Mary Kate and Happy 21st Half Birthday, Jack.
You're not cute (well maybe a little, I am your mom after all)
...but you are awesome!

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