A little over 18 years ago, I prepared to meet my son, Kepler, for the first time. Even though I did not know that he had male hardware, I had already created a basket of dreams for his future. I imagined a child ahead of the curve, inventing, creating, helping, and playing. I envisioned awards, accolades, and a shelf of trophies. I had similar dreams for his older sister, but when the doctor shouted, “Boy!” I was positive this child, my son, would play center field for the Chicago Cubs, propelling them to the World Series – finally!
By the time Kep was 18 months old, I knew that he was not progressing normally. His motor skills were on target, but he had no words and he had frequent meltdowns. Each successive milestone that was missed, felt like a missile aimed at that basket of aspirations. It took another 18 months to get an official diagnosis. That label destroyed my son’s carefully crafted basket, hopes and dreams exploding around our heads.
After a period of mourning those fragile wishes, I looked at my son and began building new goals for him, for our family. I learned to think small, to break things down, to recognize the achievement in the mundane. While our friends shared pictures of their children with soccer trophies and dance awards, we quietly celebrated the fact that Kep had learned to blow his nose. As the other children were entering math competitions, we awarded Kep for new words, even the vulgar ones. We commended Kep for each of his hard earned skills, but we did it without public fanfare.
As a parent, I want to brag about my child, but am rarely given the opportunity. When Kep first told a lie, people were shocked by my jubilation. An important developmental milestone, lying was a skill I wasn’t sure he would ever attain. Friends were confused by my reaction, and some criticized my choice to celebrate. Unknowingly, they robbed me of that joyful moment, and those moments are few and far between.
I have learned that taking pride in my son’s achievements, no matter how small, is an important piece of my parenting. Without the little parties, hope would dwindle, and life would become joyless. So, I may not post pictures on Facebook of Kep getting his driver’s license, attending prom or receiving a college acceptance letter, but I will publicly celebrate the moments for which he has worked hard. His basket of dreams has evolved, becoming unique to him, and I am very proud of everything that he has achieved.