top of page

Reflections From an Amazing 18-Year Adventure


Picture of Taden staring into a lion’s face in an exhibit at the Natural Museum of History in Tring, England, at 18 months of age.

Taden in a senior picture leaning on the gazebo at the old historic Mesilla Plaza in New Mexico and smiling.

This week's Throwback Thursday falls on the 18th which also happens to be my oldest child’s 18th birthday! It is hard to believe, in part because it feels like their time as a child is never enough and also because Taden has achieved more than many doctors and teachers predicted along the way. As I reflect on our 18-year journey together I am reminded of particular lessons I have learned that I would like to share with anyone willing to indulge me on this special day and beyond.


Significant progress and growth can occur despite the perception of inactivity.


Taden was my 7th pregnancy that followed 6 consecutive miscarriages. Taden was so motionless in the womb that I would show up to the doctor’s office in tears, without an appointment, convinced that I lost this pregnancy like the ones before. But despite the lack of movement or kicks, the heartbeat was always there with Taden. The further along in the pregnancy I went, the more paranoid I became of losing it. I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to 38 weeks, which was the earliest the doctor was willing to induce me. Taden must have sensed my angst because without warning they (Taden’s preferred pronoun) decided to make their appearance at exactly 36 weeks! The preemie team was ready to deal with potential issues from this high-risk pregnancy, but Taden quietly showed everyone that no intervention would be required. Taden was my miracle baby!


Don’t make assumptions about others - you know what they say about those.


Taden wasn’t just quiet in the womb, but also as a baby and toddler. I took them with me on many business trips in their first five years, including trips to Korea, China, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and many other countries. You could see the sheer terror in the faces of fellow passengers on international flights as they grappled with the possibility that they would be seated near a shrieking baby for over eight hours. Not a peep from Taden on those flights. In fact, some of the people who gave us dirty looks when we sat near them were the ones making the most noise as they snored loudly for what seemed to me to be an eternity. I could take Taden to the office, meetings, fitness classes, and social events and they were more well-behaved than I was!


Missing defined or predicted targets does not mean you have failed. Some targets aren’t meant to be met because better ones are emerging instead.


The quiet baby that became the quiet toddler was a little too quiet and began to worry me. Taden didn’t babble. Then Taden didn’t use words. They walked late. Taden had trouble potty training. They didn’t play with other kids. Taden also started having motor tics that became more severe and occurred more often. Their only sounds were ones they made when having vocal tics. 

By age four, Taden was diagnosed as Autistic and with Tourette syndrome. We began paying for private speech therapy in our home at 18 months old while we also taught them sign language so they could have another option to communicate with us. But what Taden couldn’t say with words they made up for by drawing amazing pictures and painting at a young age. We would find countless sticky notes all over the house with drawings on them. Taden would also take baby wipes and create clothing for our statues and figurines that looked so good that one time I thought the figurine had come decorated that way. Taden didn’t do the typical things in the typical ways that other kids did and many of them were absolutely amazing.


There is no one right path to take or method to use when it comes to development and growth.


Taden seemed to respond better to speech therapy when we sang the words and then pointed to the part of the mouth that helped make the sound. Through singing, little by little Taden began using words. At first, they were random or out of context. Then phrases would be repeated from a movie (Ponyo was a favorite) but placed in a context in which it sort of made sense. By the time Taden started Kindergarten, they were able to mainstream with some accommodations as well as daily speech and language therapy. Taden struggled with social interactions, taking everything literally, and understanding jokes, but they excelled in reading, swimming, art, and playing the piano while also singing.


Sometimes pausing or taking a step back is the most effective way to truly move forward.


Elementary school was not always smooth sailing. Taden ended up going to third grade virtually due to a significant worsening of their tics, to the point that it was hard for them to be in the classroom all day. The year at home was productive because we were able to gain more insight into their strengths and areas of opportunity from an academic perspective. Taden returned to the classroom in fourth grade and did exceedingly well. In the meantime, Taden continued with piano and art and also took up musical theater and soccer. Taden blossomed on the stage in musical theater and their personality really came to life. Taden also raised funds for the Tourette Syndrome Association several years in a row running the Disney 5K race on their team.


Don’t allow others to put limitations on you and never underestimate what you are capable of doing, even when it gets tough.


In Taden’s 5th grade IEP meeting at school, the team said it would be unlikely that they could handle going to middle school all day and manage changing classes throughout the day. They recommended that Taden do the core classes virtually at home and then go to the school for electives. We sent Taden to middle school full-time anyway, and they did struggle, but mainly with the social aspects of school. Taden went to two different middle schools and then ended up doing 8th grade virtually to regroup as their tics had worsened with the stress. Taden continued in musical theater and was cast as Annie at the community theater at age 11. I saw Annie 9 times and cried my eyes out each and every performance. Taden beautifully managed unexpected challenges on stage, including handling a situation with Sandy, the dog, vomiting all over the stage in the middle of singing Tomorrow to a sold-out audience. Taden didn’t miss a note while comforting Sandy and avoiding the puddles of vomit surrounding them.


Accept yourself for who you are, trust that you have everything within you to have a fulfilling life, and soon you will see your path emerge.


At the beginning of high school, Taden was diagnosed with narcolepsy, yet another difficult challenge. It took quite a while to find the right medication and the effective dose for managing the symptoms. Apart from that and the more typical teen struggles, high school has been great for Taden. They are in choir, musical theater, and AP classes. They became a Tourette Syndrome Association Ambassador so they could give presentations about TS in schools. Taden is a teacher assistant and officer for choir and made it to all-state choir two years in a row. The teachers all love Taden and gush about having them in class each year that we meet for the IEP. They drive (much better than I do) and help me in the office with various activities. They have close and nurturing friendships and can hold conversations with adults better than many adults I know. My friends adore it when Taden joins us for outings because of it! 


What challenges you most in life may turn out to be the most meaningful.


This year Taden will graduate from high school and leave home for college. Taden wants to major in marine biology and also minor in music. They have already been accepted into 2 of 3 of their top 3 choices on the West Coast and are anxiously awaiting to hear from their #1 school at the end of March. Taden is nervous about going so far away from home for school, but not any more than other young adults their age doing the same. We have been preparing long and hard for this and, although it hasn’t been easy, it was more than worthwhile. 

When Taden was around 10 years old, I remember them crying hysterically about realizing that their brain didn't work in the same way as others. They told me that they were afraid they would never be able to drive, go to college, or live on their own. I asked Taden to make a list of the skills or activities that worried them most because we still had another 8 years to work on them before they turned 18. We worked on the items on that list until Taden didn't see the need for the list any longer, and that happened years ago. Those challenges have made Taden who they are today. 


You can’t compare people by the results they achieve equitably. What matters most is what occurs behind the scenes to get there and who they are at their core.


Taden had to work very hard to get to where they are, so much so that working hard is normal for them. It’s a way of life. Taden knows what they need to do to prevent sensory overload, self-soothe when it happens, and recover from episodes that reach extremes. Taden makes good choices and is willing to set boundaries when necessary. They advocate for themselves and demonstrate leadership skills that I often wish some leaders had more of. They still struggle with certain things, but so do others, whether neurodivergent or not. But I know in my heart that Taden is ready. The real question is whether I am quite ready to let them go. I have seven months to get as ready as possible!


You can learn from anyone, including those who are supposed to be learning from you.


As I look back and reflect on the last 18 years with my miracle, I feel extremely privileged and grateful that Taden chose me to be their mother. As much as Taden might say that they have learned from me, I can say that they have taught me more than they will ever know. I am a better person because Taden came into my life.


Happy 18th birthday to a truly amazing human from an eternally grateful mother.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page