PUZZLES & CAMO BY SHELLY HUHTANEN
The dream I had the other night was not for me. I think the dream was what I felt inside for Broden. He will miss it. He will miss the feeling of excitement of asking a girl to the dance and hearing her say yes.
I had a strange dream the other night. I walked into an empty locker room to change my clothes. I grew frustrated because I couldn’t find anything that was mine. After being in the locker room for what seemed like eternity, I walked out to the gym only to realize that I had missed the event. Everyone was smiling, laughing and hugging each other in celebration after the event. The scary thing was that no one had noticed that I had missed it. I tried to analyze the dream because I felt so alone when I woke up and I had such a hollow feeling in my chest that I couldn’t seem to get over. After thinking about it these past few weeks, maybe this dream has nothing to do with me. Maybe it has to do about how I feel about my son, Broden.
Last weekend, Mark and I decided to do what we always say we are going to do, but really never do. We cleaned out Broden’s bedroom. We found things like parts of toys that we thought we would never see again, the other sock that is married to the one that was collecting dust in our basement on the washer. As I dug through his drawers, I found a pair of size 4 shorts. When I read the size out loud to Mark, we sat there in disbelief. Broden’s birthday is in March. He’ll be 12 years old. After saying his age out loud to each other again, we started to throw more things away. I kept thinking, “He’s 12 years old. Why am I putting that shirt on him?” or “He’s 12 years old, when was the last time he read that book?” When I called Broden back into his room after our overhaul, he ran in and jumped on the bed as he slowly scanned his room. He could tell things were different and based on his smile, I’d like to think that he wanted to tell us, “Thank you for doing this because I’m going to be 12 years old.”
A few days after reorganizing his room, I took him to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up. After the woman at the front office asked me his date of birth, she told me there were a few more surveys that needed to be filled out on his health. After opening them up, I approached the front desk and tried to convince her there must be a misunderstanding because Broden was given sex and drug surveys. She told me there was no mix up. Since Broden was going to be 12 years old, he needed to take the surveys. I continued to argue with her, “How can Broden take these surveys? He doesn’t even know how to take a freakin’ survey, much less answer questions about sex and drugs!?”
She would not budge and I was told to take the surveys for him. In the waiting room I went through each question as I rolled my eyes. I would ask Broden, “Have you had sex? If so, how often?” He would look at me with a blank stare. I was thinking to myself, “I don’t think he’s taking meth.”
After filling out the surveys, kicking them back to the nurse and rolling my eyes like the smarty pants that I am, I was educated later that day on the reasons why they provide those surveys to typical 12 year olds. A friend of mine told me that there are many 12 year olds that would fill the two surveys out a lot differently than I did for Broden. She reminded me that kids are growing up way too fast and we need to be proactive and ask the right questions to create appropriate dialog.
I looked at Broden as he watched his Nemo video, and it hit me. Broden’s path and a typical child’s age path are growing farther and farther apart. It is no longer just focused on basic communication of his wants and needs. Typical kids are creating more complex relationships that are far beyond Broden’s capabilities and he most likely will never experience it.
Yesterday, I was driving my oldest son, Hayden, to school in the morning. It was the first day of school after the
Valentines Day dance. He had asked a girl to the dance and she had said yes. I remember his face when he saw her for the first time at the dance as he gave her a flower. He was smitten. As we pulled around to the front door of the school that Monday morning, he anxiously opened the door and scanned his eyes around the front of the school. I knew who he was looking for that morning. He was looking for her.
The dream I had the other night was not for me. I think the dream was what I felt inside for Broden. He will miss it. He will miss the feeling of excitement of asking a girl to the dance and hearing her say yes. He’ll miss the feeling of his heart pounding the first time the girl he likes wants to hold his hand. I mourn for him knowing that he doesn’t even know what he will miss. Maybe that is his only saving grace and what I need to remind myself. He will know what he knows, but will never know what he is missing. •
PUZZLES & CAMO
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.
Source Exceptional Parent Magazine