I remember when I first learned my son was autistic in the year 2000 he was 1 year old and I was 39 years old. Now my son is 11 years old and although Maria and I are 9 years older we still feel the same as we did when our son was first born. Well maybe Maria feels a little different as I do remember she was experiencing quite a bit of pain throughout the birth of our son and for a little while after though the joy of her holding our baby boy eased her pain. The reality though that really hits me is that our son is growing and is now in middle school. It is a real wake up call as Matthew is approaching his teenage years and Maria and I need to prepare ourselves for that time in his life as I’m sure he will have many questions and feelings that kids his age experience. I will defer his questions about the girls to my wife. It is exciting seeing our son grow and mature but a bit sad that his time as a baby is just a distant memory and it is hard to believe how fast the years have gone by.
As my son approaches his teenage years I am thinking back to the time when I was approaching my teenage years and how I was dealing with the changes and feelings I had. We all go through it and we learn as we grow and experience life. I was a bit on the shy side growing up so I was more studious and into sports like baseball. When I started to find girls more appealing I would have long talks with my mom on how I should start conversations and interact with them. Both my parents always gave me sound and helpful advice and that is what I wish to provide for our son when the time comes and he has his questions to ask.
My biggest concern for Matthew as an autistic child is how he can grow and keep his feelings and emotions in check and be able to relate with his peers both boys and girls. We want Matthew to always feel comfortable and to know that he is a wonderful child and should never be afraid to experience life and the joys of growing up. After all we all have to grow and adjust to changes in our life as that is a normal part of aging and developing. Life can be very complicated at times and sometimes we have to learn how to adjust and ride out the ups and downs we certainly will experience along the way.
One thing I know that will be a big issue in Matthew’s life is his seizure disorder. As a teenager approaches his or her final years of high school and is preparing for college they start to find a need and desire to learn to drive so they can be more independent and learning how to drive for most young adults seems to be a rite of passage. For Matthew that privilege of driving may not be available because of his epilepsy and that would be something he would have to adjust to and I would certainly feel for him because it seems driving is a necessity for entering the working world today unless you work in the city. For most people today driving is a necessity as opposed to a luxury. I want my son to have every chance and opportunity that everyone else has and we will confront that issue of driving as a family and will help Matthew every step of the way.
As a father looking to be there for his son I want him to learn to have confidence in his abilities and to never back down from a challenge. I want him to be happy and to have a sense of humor in life so he can learn to deal with all aspects of growing and dealing with life circumstances. I want my son to never be afraid and to always have faith and trust and an insatiable desire to learn and grow and become a mature, confident and respectable young man. Maria and I love our son very much and are grateful for being blessed with such a wonderful gift. Our son is our life and our world and he is what makes us appreciate life for we have someone very special to us who provides us with great joy and teaches us responsibility and true unconditional love.
So as I see my son growing I tend to think back to the time when he was so tiny and I would peer over him in his crib and just taking in the moment of feeling so emotionally inspired and just loving him, my wife and that moment knowing how much he needs us and how much we need him. For as we experience our child grow into their teenage years and become more independent and then further grow into their adult life we tend to feel a bit sad because we then realize our baby is now at a point in their life now where they are now in a position to start taking care of themselves and we feel the time has gone by to fast and at a loss because our baby is no longer a baby anymore.
We love you Matthew! You will always be our baby!
Edward D. Iannielli III