As a mom to a son with autism, I’m no stranger to doing things differently. We learned a “new normal” even before he was diagnosed, even though it took years to come to terms with it. (That’s a whole other story.) But along the way, our “new normal” kept changing. And now, our “normal” is waaaaay different than how we started.

It’s not completely unlike what parents of non-special needs kids experience as their kids grow up. It seems to be almost natural, the way we change to keep up with the new thing our kid is (or isn’t) doing—whether it’s sports, school, friends, or behavior, our kids change as they grow. It’s just how life goes. Their change forces mom and dad to change too, but looking back, we didn’t realize it was happening at the time. It wasn’t until later that we’re sitting around after the kids are in bed and it suddenly hits us—hey, we’re soccer parents now. Or marching band parents. And suddenly, it’s as if our kids changed overnight and are more grown up than we thought.

I have three boys, currently ages 14, 12, and 10. My youngest is in double digits. But in my head, he’s still the chunky baby from my pictures and videos. When I see another mom out in public with littles in tow, I smile and share what I think is a knowing smile. Except I don’t have littles in tow, and my “knowing smile” becomes a little bit creepy. But I still see myself as that young mom with littles. Suddenly, when I look at the man-child that IS my eldest son, everything is different. We just did what we needed to do along the way, but we didn’t really notice it until later and we look back and see just how different things are.

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