Travis has had nicknames aplenty over the years. On this blog, he’s our Lionheart. But his dad has called him ‘Sausage’ since the day he was born. And when we snuggle, I call Travis my ‘Bear-Bear’. Have you seen his thatch of thick, brown hair? It’s very Beatles. Very Yellow Submarine.
Now Travis goes by the moniker Captain Giggles, because his shy and merry laugh is the birdsong I wake up to when he’s home. It’s the sweetest sound. God, I miss you when you’re not here, my son.
After we placed Travis in residential care in July last year, I found it helped if I thought of his absence in boarding school terms. I’d give myself little pep talks and think: “You’re actually fortunate, Stacey, because most boarding school moms only get to see their kids for school holidays. You get to see Travis every second weekend. And that’s actually every 10 days. So suck it up.”
It worked for a while.
Then Travis started losing weight. A lot of weight.
He’s also shot up in height, to be fair – I am sure you’ve noticed when I share photos of our Lionheart on Instagram. It’s just unlucky for me that Travis went through that fabled eat-an-entire-box-of-Pronutro-for-breakfast growth spurt that young boys have, at the exact moment I packed off my eight-year-old away to live in a care home for special needs kids.
Now he’s tall and skinny after years of being short and tubby. When we sit together on the couch like we did last night, Travis is all knobbly knees and elbows. Spidery, like a Daddy Long Legs.
I almost expect to find a shadow of peach fuzz growing on his upper lip; but Travis is just eight. It’s a reminder that puberty is approaching, and with it will come a whole new set of challenges.
Nobody writes about it, you know: what it’s like to raise a mentally challenged boy as he grows into manhood. Because it’s awkward and squirmy and uncomfortable. I wonder when the time comes, if I’ll be able to share it with you as openly as I have shared Trav’s early years?
But that’s a chapter still to be written.
For now, I’ll just bask in the sunshine of those early morning giggles just outside my bedroom door, when Travis comes to investigate if his mom and dad are awake yet.