The last two years I did a "year in pictures" post with Simon, but after going through the stack for the last year, I didn't really take a ton of photos of him that were particularly interesting. That, and it was hard to get candids of him, thus I'm left with a lot of "my two big front adult teeth" smiles.
This year has had its ups and downs, for sure. We've watched him academically catch up even while we struggle to get the right balance of ADHD meds in him. His mechanical understanding of things, and curiosity about them, is stronger than ever, which is usually a good thing (though he doesn't just accept the "magic" of theater and theme park attractions). He's tried new rides and found that he enjoys them. He struggles socially more than ever. He's becoming an extraordinary swimmer. The kid who doesn't understand sarcasm can be intentionally funny. He's all of these things.
Nine means he's half-way to legal adulthood. That scares the shit out of me because I feel like there isn't enough time to really prepare him for the world and give him a happy childhood at the same time. And puberty is only a few years away, so it won't be long before he doesn't want to cuddle up to you on the couch for a movie. It feels like it was just last year that I could football-hold him, and now he has opinions and complex emotions. I can't believe how fast time has gone.
But Simon still does the things that has made parenthood amazing. I'll never get tired of his greetings when I get home from work or he gets home from school. We like to do some of the same things, like build giant Lego sets, but he loves board games and I... don't. Thankfully Diana can tag in. His empathy skills are slowly coming around, and he sees the value he brings when he helps with chores. At the most fundamental level, Simon creates something few things other than a child can: lots of love.
Shortly after his last birthday, Simon finally took a chance and learned that he loves Space Mountain. I mean, we live 11,000 feet from Cinderella Castle, it would be a shame if that wasn't his thing. We've scored lots of excellent on-ride photos, but none as great as this one with this teen emo girl up front who clearly hated being here with her parents.
Simon once again managed to enjoy three cruises this year. The interesting thing is that in the last cruise, over the holidays, he was confident to start swimming without a life jacket.
Among the things we share interests in, we can now put pinball machines on the list. He went to a friend's birthday party where they had a couple of machines, and he really engaged. Screens aren't the only thing... this kid really loves the tactile experience of an actual thing moving around with physics.
In the fall, we made a weekend trip to Daytona Beach, where Diana had a quilt retreat. Daytona is a total dump, but the kid does love the ocean. We also toured the speedway.
I can't even tell you how important Lego has been in our lives. As a kid, I had three or four large sets, and the memory of those is among the best of my childhood. Today I'm able to buy the big grownup sets for me, but there's an entirely new set of classics that Simon has received as gifts. Whereas he would struggle to build them just a few years ago, he's now able to build things like the police and fire stations on his own.
It seems weird to post a photo of us in an elevator, but for better or worse, the kid loves elevators. It's carry over from his toddler days, when doors fascinated him, and now you add a mechanical component and a service component that he enjoys. He loves "helping" people get in and out, and holding the door for others. There's no shortage of opportunity to do this on a cruise ship.
Unfortunately this is the back of Simon, but the moment was sweet and I love that I at least captured it. On our New Year's cruise, there was a couple named Suzy & Alex that performed at various places on the ship, and Simon charmed this young Brit at every performance. Maybe it was the other way around. I dunno, either way, she sat down next to him to sing in the atrium, and it was a lovely moment.
Taking Simon to see Hamilton felt like a risk, because three hours is a long time for a kid to sit still and observe theater etiquette (many times over when ASD is at odds with such social contracts). But the kid loves the music, and no matter what the cost, I felt like he needed to see the show. He definitely struggled to hold his questions, but seeing him physically react to "Yorktown" was all the validation that I needed to know we made the right choice. At his age, who knows if he'll really remember it, but I hope he does.
When I was still regretting moving away from Seattle on a regular basis, one of the strongest reasons for that was that Simon didn't get to see his cousins very often. But his cousins have a house now on the gulf coast, and they visited us three times in the last year, including the better part of a week just recently. Naturally, they have passes to Walt Disney World, so that makes for some great cousin time, like the time they met Belle.