My son Andrew, now age 18, and I just returned from our third consecutive baseball spring training trip to Florida. Our annual journey together has been a wonderful opportunity to bond.
This may be our last trip for some time. Next year Andrew will be out of high school and we are working on developing a post-high school experience. He may not be available. If the economy does not substantially improve, there will be no more vacations in the Ross family, after one we are planning in June in celebration of Andrew’s completion of high school. One never knows if a next opportunity will be there, but we will remember the last one.
It has been fascinating and wonderful to observe Andrew’s growing maturity and independence over these last three years of trips. He is a guy with a variety of special needs, significant inattention and anxiety among them.
Three years ago, Andrew had difficulty navigating a stadium without my prompts and supports. Now, he navigates any baseball stadium by himself, whether to get a hot dog, ice cream, score card, or memorabilia. He is comfortable at the ballpark.
Three years ago, Andrew needed me with him when he sought autographs. Now he is comfortable dealing with the crowds swarming for autographs and obtaining them himself.
Three years ago, personal hygiene was a challenge. He didn’t recognize its importance. Starting on our first trip three years ago, I insisted that he adhere to a personal hygiene schedule. Shaving, showering, putting on clean clothes, and other self-care tasks had to be completed before we went to the ballpark. Now he sees personal hygiene as part of his preparation for the day. (We still have major organization and neatness issues, however.)
Three years ago, Andrew never initiated discussions about his life situation and resisted answering my questions about the subject. While this remains a challenge today, during this year’s trip Andrew offered a few insights and questions about life—and his own life.
People grow, develop, and mature at very different rates. We need to provide patience, structure, and role modeling. Patience, structure, and role modeling pay off. It just takes some people a little longer.
If at all possible, take the time—make the time—to spend special time with your children. Andrew and I will remember these trips to Florida for the rest of our lives. They are special. Enjoy them as you are able.
I hope this isn’t too simplistic or self-evident. I hope it reinforces your thoughts and instincts. We had a great baseball trip—and as a Dad, I feel more hopeful than ever.
You can read this blog and others like it at the HealthCentral website.