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Pranav turns Eighteen - My Take by Anupama Bakhshi, mother to a child with autism

In My Take this week, Anupama Bakhshi, mother to an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, shares the joys and challenges of raising a curious teenager. Pranav was also one of the top 3 winners of the Newzhook Photography contest!

Pranav just turned 18. His birthday gift? "In 2009 you said I can join a driving school. I will then drive a Wagon R!" He does not, yet, cross the main road independently and he has cycled only in the by lanes. "Why a Wagon R?" I asked. "Because we should start with a small car!"

The balance between 'allowing' our children to live the neurotypical life and 'not allowing' them to figure out the challenges is, indeed, a daunting task. We went dancing to a night club, too, and it involved only a minor hiccup. "I can smoke cigarettes now…", he announced! "But the advertisement says smoking will cost you!" Bless the advertisement!!

Even though routines were sacred, Pranav explored interests. He picked up photography early and lately, his elder sister has insisted we go beyond "Wow, that's a nice picture!" He is the official photographer with Evoleur, and is lucky to have done assignments for them.

To capture the recent lunar eclipse he stood patiently on the terrace of our house for hours. And on way back from Coonoor, he spontaneously made us stop on a winding road to catch the sun set. He loves to click hills, valleys, people, water bodies, lines, and squares, and JW Marriot, Bengaluru, from outside UB City Mall, at night, from his favourite spot! Appreciation from his sister is all he wants!!

He has understood the 'different people do different things' concept and he plans with her in his Face Time conversations. His 'flashbacks' help him analyse his own behaviour and that of others. ''I am sorry, in 2003, I told Ma to cut the rakhi that you had tied and you were so upset!'' As always, the loving sister showers endearments. The flashback scrutiny shifts to Ma. I hear him tell her, "In 2004, when you were doing Hindi homework, Ma snapped at you. She should have explained calmly". My belief that I have been a loving mom takes a beating.

He has been a fun-loving teenager making Dubsmashes, dancing, mimicking, listening to music, and loving every moment of his ramp walks and golf. It has been an absolute pleasure watching this fitness-conscious, gentle six-footer grow up to sort anxieties and obsessions and grapple with so many others so gracefully.

His anxiety journal is a good coping mechanism. He attempts to sort things through detailed writings. Radio One and his memory of songs and trivia is a stress buster, too. "RJ Chris is feeling under the weather!" is the morning news for us!

There are the "I don't want to discuss anything" and "I want to be alone" moments, too when the Caravan radio, the anxiety journal, and the laptop are his space. Did anything change as he stepped into his 18th year? No, but the promises parked for '18' popped up. It's the usual evening routine… we are warming up to the lesson. "I am going to retire at 60", he announces! "I will click pictures, travel, watch movies, walk the ramp(!), and play golf!". "But you do that even now!", I offer. He looks at the study material. "I won't have to do the boring study!" I tell him brightly, "Only for half hour and then we can talk about your ramp walk in June!" "Also why I can't see Deadpool when I am 18!" he answers!

Tomorrow is another day…. for this blessed mom who reminds herself that she better be mindful about 'turning 21' promises and the journal on Pranavisms, that she sometimes thinks is worth compiling post-retirement, must take shape!!!

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