In a few days, Kevin will be celebrating his 12th birthday. We planned for a short family vacation, like we always do for the last few years, in time for his birthday, often somewhere with a nice beach because Kevin and his sister love swimming. This year though we deviated from this routine and opted to do the much-deferred trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. My sister and nephew will meet us in HK and spend Kevin’s birthday in Disneyland. At twelve -- technically still a tween and a year separating him from teens. But Disneyland for me is symbolic of the child in him that I know will always be there. I was able to plan this ahead this time around before things get pretty busy for fiscal end.
When I started writing the draft for this post, I still have a few weeks to complete his birthday gift list – one gift from each of us – that he will open on his birthday. Kevin appreciates receiving and opening his gifts now that he is older, I’d catch him sporting a smile as his eyes light up when he sees his gifts. A few days ago, while enjoying an after-dinner-lazy-moment at the living room and I asked him, “who will have a birthday soon?” He smiled and said “me!” in his now deep voice.
Time went by so fast.
I still need to come to terms that Kevin is now a young man and no longer a little boy. He is now (much) taller, bigger and heavier than me. Whereas I used to lift him and swing him around, I couldn’t do it anymore without risk of breaking my back. We buy his shirts and pants in the grown-ups' section now. The tweens and teens section in Singapore are too small for his frame. His bathroom include his own set of deodorant, hair gel, cologne and a mild toner (yes, toner!) – we got him to use one after he started getting a few zits and whiteheads – which thankfully, he does not scratch away.
He has gotten used to running his daily personal self care routine like clockwork-- fixing his bed after waking up, choosing and preparing his clothes for school, going though daily grooming including applying his deodorant and prepping himself. These include putting his own watch, belt, cap (when he feels like it), socks and shoes and taking out his backpack. I learned that he too has his favorite shirts and pajama set.
After school hours, he follows a schedule that includes ‘study time’ and his other drills. We keep part of the hours in the afternoon to be his “free time”. Between five to six o’clock, he will get his basketball and prepare to play downstairs. We used to have cue cards, the one that Kyla arranges for him every night in preparation for the next day. But since he has gotten comfortable running his routine, we don’t need the cue cards anymore. In a way, it was one of his early successes into moving slowly to daily independence. He is now starting to learn to clean and tidy up his own room and help more into other chores at home. This is not unique for him because we ask Kyla to do the same.
Kevin now holds the role of being our prayer leader. Before meals and before going to bed, he is the one to initiate to start praying. He will recite the Sign of the Cross while Kyla will be the one to lead the rest of the prayer. Then he will close the prayer.
Kevin started asserting his privacy as well. There are times when he would just want to stay in his bedroom and enjoy his time alone. When we’d check, he’ll be sitting by the long bench facing the window and he would be looking down at the busy sight. The bedrooms in our unit overlook the pool, the vast track of garden and play area. There will always be people swimming at the pool, children playing soccer or riding a bike, or just hovering at the Koi pond. I guess that there were times when he probably wanted to be a part of that busy state of affairs. We allow him to have his daily play time if the weather is not too hot and if he is done with his daily tasks. The people in our condo-community knew him by now and they like him. Kevin likes looking at the babies. There was a boy little over one-year old who gives him the 'high five' when he see Kevin. There was also a dog who liked playing with Kevin and his basketball.
As I realized the new goings-on in his life, I could not help but marvel and be thoughtfully poignant at the same time. My little boy is now a young man. And whether we like it not, we had to start backing off and let him run his show, seek for opportunities for him to be a part of the bigger pie of life. And we have to do it in a way that allows him to breathe and not stifle him, while at the same time still be there to shadow and guide him. I am thankful that his Yaya Jhane who has been with us since Kevin was 6, continue to be there for him during those hours and days when I can't. I pray that she can still be with us for more years.
In what seemed now like eons ago, when he was about six years old, I remember sitting in the office of the Developmental Pediatrician over an excruciating conversation about Kevin’s progress. We were told that the chances of Kevin being able to speak and able to join regular school would be quite slim. That we should probably consider reducing the therapy and SPED (special education) sessions that he attended then and save the money instead (since the therapies and SPED counts a fortune, a reason why it took us longer to be able to afford building our own house). I probably cried an ocean in that space of time. One of those moments when you try to contain emotions but just can't. This was one conversation that I always try to push back to the deepest recesses of my memory.
I respect that as a professional, the doctor has a responsibility to tell us the reality of the situation, no matter how painful it is. The logical side of me can understand that. But the maternal, emotional side of me wanted to be angry at how the option seemed to slam all doors and windows shut. Hope cannot be reduced to pesos and cents. All that histrionics. And we moved on and continued to provide our son, to the best that we can, all the support we can give – educational, moral and spiritual support, the love and loyalty that only a family can give. We pushed on, hoped, prayed, worked for better days. We are also thankful for the angels around us, who have given Kevin their selfless show of support in many ways that made his life richer. They have given us hope to cling on to, during the days when the skies look overcast.
A fellow parent-writer aptly puts it and I quote her: “When the clouds are forever hiding the sun, you learn to squint your eyes and look hard for the silver lining. And true enough, by God’s mercy, they are always there.” (by Pinky Cuaycong in her article Silver Linings, featured in the blog of the Autism Society of the Philippines)
That day seemed light years by now. Kevin is now a young man and everyone who knew him loved him. They are his blessings as he is a blessing for us. His challenges, our challenges – are still herculean and just as daunting as it were years ago but love, faith and hope – God’s greatest gifts – make us stronger. And I believe it made Kevin stronger too.
When I look at Kevin, I still and probably will always see, the little baby I used to cradle in my arms. Every night before I tuck him to bed, I always remind him of our promise. That we will be there for him for as long as it takes. For whatever it takes. Now matter how dark and cold the night could be, the sun always rises.
Happy Birthday dear Kevin!
We love you and we thank the Lord for each that is given to us that we are together.
You are a blessing to all of us!
|Kevin perched on top of his favorite spot at the playground|