It’s late, and your father and I put you to bed long ago, but I still hear you cooing. You occasionally punctuate your sing song with a quick kick to the wall, as if to remind everyone that you are here and awake. I’m sure it actually serves a purpose in your search for sensory input, but it only disturbs my already failing sleep patterns. You finally wear yourself out enough to sleep and I say a quick prayer that you will sleep through the night. Now that I’m not listening to you, I’m listening to my brain, which goes over the mistakes I made, the angry words I muttered out of frustration. “I’m going to do better tomorrow,” I think. I will try, but not always succeed.
I hope tomorrow will be a good day. A good day for us means your meltdowns will be minimal, you will have a normal bowel movement, and we won’t have to fight you at dinner time. It’s not how I imagined parenthood would be. I thought I would worry about grades, money, drugs, alcohol, and college. Instead, I find myself checking your body over daily for any marks or bruises that you can’t tell us about, I worry about the ADA being repealed, I worry about who will take care of you when your father and I die, I worry about people discriminating against you or being cruel to you because of one small part of who you are. I worry that you will never find love outside these walls, or that you will never understand how much you are already loved.
Parenting an autistic child is HARD, hard in ways people never imagine. And most days, I feel like I’m failing at it. Those days that I don’t fail, empower me. I hope to someday be as strong as you are. As much as I struggle, I will never know what you go through on a daily basis; how hard it must be just to process everything around you. You have made so much progress in the last 8 years: the fear that you will never talk replaced with the hope that you will do so just like you do everything else. In your own time.
You were the child who refused to leave my belly, keeping me laboring for 30 hours, only to be pushed out in 2 minutes. You completed our family so effortlessly. You were so much smaller than your brother that I immediately felt protective. While Brady cried pretty constantly as an infant, you always smiled. You hit all of your physical milestones early, so it was unexpected that you would have developmental delays. You were diagnosed and you never knew that some doctor said you would never talk.
I hope that you are able to read this at some point; that you know how we navigated your first 11 years as a family. That who you are right now is a boy who loves all things Disney, will only drink water, dislikes vegetables as a whole, enjoys an impromptu dance party in the kitchen with me, refers to the movie theatre as “popcorn,” and still rest your head in the crook of my neck.
Today, when I dropped you off at school, you hugged me tightly and stroked my hair. That moment each morning is one of my favorite moments of my day. I asked you to say bye. I saw all the thought and effort in your face and you said, “b-y-e.” During the car ride there, you told me it was c-l-o-u-d-y. I explained that that it was sunny and you pointed out the window and said s-u-n-n-y. You have made so much progress in the last 8 years, but I know the road ahead is still long and rough. I just hope to provide you with the skills to navigate it.
I originally wanted to just write about a “typical” day as your mom, but typical isn’t a word we use in our house. And, I like letters. Like you, emotions are not my favorite thing. I’ve always had an easier time conveying my thoughts in my writing than with my spoken words. Although, as I’m writing, I’m realizing that how I feel for you and as your mother could never properly be articulated. There aren’t words powerful enough.