This is going to be a different sort of post – an open letter of sorts to encourage other moms with Outside-the-Box children and to perhaps give some perspective to those without. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to pour out some gratitude to a rather odd recipient…autism.
I am so very thankful for you. Seven years ago, I never thought I’d say that but I’m saying it now.
You have made me a better mother. I’m really not sure I would have been so great at this motherhood thing had God not used to you challenge me. When the ante was upped – twice – and then again when we found out our third son had ADHD and dyslexia – some sort of superpower began to grow in me. A determination was ignited to do well at this quest; to take it on with full gusto. To persevere against all odds. I became David against Goliath and just like with David, the superpower is not my own. God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
And boy, autism, did you make me weak at first. Fall to my knees weak. Full of doubt and fear weak. “How in the world am I going to do this?” weak. Helpless weak. Hopeless weak. And that ended up being a really good place to be because when I am weak, He is strong.
Autism, you have forced me to wear a new pair of parenting glasses. You forced me to become a thinking mother. I traded in my twaddle-filled parenting magazines for books of substance. I began to learn and change and grow. I vowed that survival mode would not be good enough for my family; we would keep growing until we thrived.
You have forced me to look – really look – at my children with all of their unique strengths and challenges and see who they are as individuals.
Not who I want them to be.
Not who I hope they’ll become.
But who they actually are, right now, and to love them where they’re at.
Every idiosyncrasy. Every unique interest. Every piece of their soul.
While we’re on the subject, I would also like to thank you for my specialized knowledge in all things Minecraft, Lego, Marvel Superheroes, Blues Clues, Harry Potter, Star Wars, famous artists, famous composers, anything Roald Dahl wrote, A Christmas Carol, and the comparison of any movie that was originally a book and eventually “ruined” by Disney. These are or have been a special interest of my boys at some point and without you, I would have never had so many great conversations about them.
You have made me better, autism, but in order to do so, you had to humble me first. See, I was a really great mom before I had kids. Then I was going to be a really great mom to the perfect children. And then my children were born and they weren’t perfect…and I realized I wasn’t either.
You have showed me that the best view to have is from the bottom looking up. The best perspective is that turned toward another. The best way to fill your soul is to empty yourself for someone else.
Autism, you have used my children in so many public situations to cure me of the disease of caring what others think of me. The stinging words, the condescending looks, the frozen stares, the head shakes, the “bless your heart…’s” and the unwanted advice all hurt but falling from pride usually does. I now have a special appreciation for the scripture “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” because of you.
Oh, you have taken me on many ups and downs, autism. The challenges have been more painful than I imagined but the victories – oh, how sweet the victories have been. I dare say I savor every milestone, every look in the eye, every moment of true connection, every obstacle overcome more than I ever would have with a “typical” child.
Just when I thought you had depleted me for my own good, I remembered that God never wastes a hurt. You have also opened my eyes to those hurting around me. My painful moments became stories of hope for another. The mind-boggling challenges became points of connection with another mother going through the same thing at the same time. I went from feeling completely isolated to seeing a beautiful web being formed between myself and other mothers struggling with the same challenges.
Autism, you introduced me to wonderful people I would have never met otherwise. Teachers, trainers, leaders, therapists, principals, doctors, coaches, babysitters, friends and peers – the people who I hold so dear in my heart would have never touched our lives without this diagnosis. Precious friends and loved ones have been in the trenches with us and supported us. They have gotten to know our children and invested in them and loved them – truly loved them – and that may have never happened without having such a big reason to do so. We have shared our life with some of the best people I have ever met because we needed them.
And now for homeschool…autism, I had absolutely zero intention of homeschooling my children until we met. I was going to be little Ms. PTA mom and that was that. But when I pulled Benjamin out of school I knew that there would need to be a different road for us. Homeschool – an answer to a problem in preschool – has turned into a lifestyle of learning I cannot imagine our family living without. I cannot thank you enough for the gift of homeschool and the opportunities it has given us to connect and grow as a family.
I cannot end this letter without mentioning food. Autism, I really hated you for this one for a while. Our diets are so inconvenient – so restrictive, expensive, and annoying at times – and yet, I know we are healthier for it. I know I am building disciplines in my children’s lives that are making them stronger and that will make them better adults. You opened my eyes to the travesty that is the food industry today and that awareness has helped me to make better choices.
Autism, I never asked for you. I never wanted you. I would never wish you on anyone.
But, I can be thankful in all things.