When I was about to turn 16, I believed with my whole heart that I would get a car for my birthday. I imagined a communal effort. If all my aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, the neighbors, and the guy at the dry cleaner pooled their money, I was sure they could swing a used Chevy Cavalier or maybe a not-too-rusty Ford Escort. My hopes were dashed at the party as I received several traditional presents and… that was it.
Even though she turns 16 today, my daughter Lexi won’t be searching for a set of wheels in the driveway or holding her hand out for a key. It’s strange to look back and remember a doctor telling us that Lexi, our then newborn and first child, would never be married, never live alone, and never drive. It was their way of introducing us two new parents to the unfamiliar and shocking concept of what it will mean to raise a child with special needs. At that same appointment, a social worker told us “She may work at the hospital, but she won’t be a doctor.”
Those words crushed me because 1) I didn’t expect things to turn out that way and 2) they were quite right and I couldn’t argue with the truth. I hated the truth, at least that one. It meant she wouldn’t enjoy the kind of freedom and independence that we assume all our expected babies will. She’ll never be a professional. I’m never going to walk her down the aisle. My dad heart still grieves over this, and every birthday is majority celebration with a tinge of sadness.
She’ll never drive.
But that’s okay, because Lexi doesn’t want to drive. She wants to hear and play music. She wants to sit with people as they sing her favorites. She’s always hungry for oatmeal and bananas and cheeseburgers and pizza and whatever you’re eating. She wants to glide in her glider and swim in her pool. She wants to wander the house and see what rattles when shaken. She wants to — for some reason — move all the dishes out of the sink and rearrange them on the counter. I still don’t get that one.
And she wants to go for rides in the car. Lexi loves to go for car rides.
Lexi also loves diapers. Well, ok, she doesn’t love diapers. She’s somewhat potty trained, but diapers are still a big part of her life. Lexi loves diapers the way I love my belt. It’s fine, and I appreciate a good fit and style, but I could go without and be fine (but you wouldn’t be fine with that).
Because Lexi “loves” diapers, friends and family brought diapers as gifts. All throughout the day, folks dropped by and delivered her favorite diaper brand (again, not her favorite but you know what I mean) as well as cards, gifts, and a few musical toys. The musical book toy that Emily got her was a huge hit and will provide many hours of entertainment. She was loved well today, and it made for a very special birthday indeed.
So, we celebrate a new milestone. My sweet daughter is Sweet 16. And I love her so.