I was thrust out of sleep last night for a few brief seconds into total free fall, just barely this side of consciousness, unable to recall where I was, who I was, why I was. For a moment I struggled to orient myself in space and time, until I heard myself say in a calm, competent voice: “Wait for it.” A total sense of trust washed over me, a sense of excitement even (who might I be?) until finally I slammed back hard into the labels and perceptions of me—my name, my place on the globe and in my bed, a knowing that today was Tuesday and that I’d go be going to work in a few hours, coffee first. Then it all receded and I slipped back into sleep.

My son turned 13 this summer. As a parent, there is a sense of barreling through the unknown now. After so many years of trying to make a childhood, it’s already time to start building an adulthood. We leave the Beginning behind, and head into the Middle. I know it’s a complicated process for all parents, but this is different, or maybe just a heightened, hi-octane version of the same thing. More intentionality, more paperwork, more letting go whether or not if feels like it’s time. For a child who is so far behind his chronological peers in so many ways, he must begin to prepare for his adulthood long before most the others. And we are here to help him, making decisions about which skills to focus on, which goals to scratch off the list. Mostly, it’s about accepting, for better or worse, that adulthood is coming, and even though he may need help like a child in some ways forever, treating him like one isn’t what he wants. Even when it is, it may not be possible.

What I wouldn’t give to feel that sweet sense of safety I had this morning during this process. To trust that the answers will come and “embrace the questions” of this transition. To perceive the unknown as no problem, exciting even. But I’m not there yet. I guess I’ll have to wait for it.

Published by Cristin Lind

Facilitator, consultant, speaker for better health and care through patient-professional partnership. Passionate about helping change agents build courage and agency. She/her.

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  1. This resonates so deeply with me. My son is turning 15 this fall and I find that this Middle is everything you describe — lots of paperwork, a recognition of what it is time to let go of (which brings both relief and sadness), and a surge toward building skills for the future. Yesterday I told him that part of preparing to be an adult would mean learning how to determine when his clothes were dirty (put in hamper) vs wearable (back in drawer). I said it with enthusiasm, like it was some big treat, some long-awaited threshold that I now thought he was ready to cross, and he was both excited and worried. “How will I know if they are dirty!?” I don’t have the answers about what the future holds but just keep trying to focus on those things he loves and excels at and hope we will figure out solutions to the rest (housing, job, safe environment) on our way. Waiting for it, as you say.

  2. Cristin, some of us are hiking in the appalachians and some of us are hiking in the himalayas. We’re all hiking, but some contexts provide the extremes of the thing. Thank you for always reporting your hike with so much honesty and heart. Much love.

  3. Cristin, I truly hear you on “the middle”. My son turns 13 in 2 weeks. People say to me all the time “Now that he’s older he should be much better at managing his type 1 diabetes.” Not true. Now that he’s almost a teenager he is much better at believing he is invincible. He is much better at ignoring signals from his continuous glucose monitor, pump, and mother that he’s in trouble because he’s out of insulin. When he’s hypoglycemic but he can’t feel it, he’s better than ever at acting like he’s out of his mind, because in very fact his brain stem is starved for the sugar it needs to function normally. All this to say, time is not making my particular kid deal with his particular special needs any better. And as a mom I struggle with when to insert myself sternly (what, this morning, his endocrinologist called “parenting”) and when to let him learn from natural consequences (some days I like to call that “parenting” too). In retrospect, the beginning went by quick. And now I fear the middle may go by even faster. And then he will be on his own, unless he welcomes my ongoing help. Some days that’s terrifying to me. I too would love to feel that sweet sense of safety I momentarily had in the years before he was diagnosed with his chronic illness. You are not alone in waiting for that feeling to return. Love you and love your writing!

    1. The challenges of preparing our kids for adulthood when there is so much at stake make it easy to think that we should just hold on as long as we can. I think what this time is about is managing how to break the lessons down into manageable enough chunks so that they can be high-probability chances for learning, not disaster. But it isn’t easy!

  4. My daughter was in the “middle” very long ago but it sometimes feels like yesterday. One of the things I wish I would have known then was to “wait for it’ but also to just “allow” The journey has been difficult but I finally feel most days I made the right decisions for and with her.

    1. What a wonderful think to hear, Debbie. I hope that when I look back, I’ll think that too. It won’t be perfect, but there will be plenty to celebrate, both now and then.

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