If you start sinking, hold your ground.

There’s something to this Autism thing.

My son is only four, but it sometimes feels like I’ve been sitting outside of something for a lot of years. Looking back, I can see things more clearly. The way I began to hold back from doing things with other parents. How I explained his quirks away with more socially acceptable words like “shy” and just kept waiting for him to grow out of whatever it was and talk and play like all the others. So I could finally be that hip mom I’d always planned on being, and he could charm the crap out of everyone on the playground like he did me when we were home, safe and warm in our cave.

Then he got older and I began to understand. There wasn’t a phase to grow out of. There was this word, and it was big and scary, but it made sense. God, it made sense. Pieces were there, and I read and saw other parents online whose kids sounded like mine.

And you know what? Their kids charmed the crap out of me.

We’re different. Autism, for us, is a different way to look at the world. We’re noisy, and affectionate and sometimes the world is a difficult one to fit into when you’re not the neurotypical, but that’s okay. We’re the outsiders. And my son is teaching the eternal self-conscious fifteen year-old in me to not give a shit. He’s not this miniature adult saying adorable things and asking for an iPad for Christmas, because to him its all about the lights and the Ray Charles CD his mama dances to in the living room. Its about the choo-choo train he sees at the store, filling up his sissy’s stocking with his Toy Story toys and going to Grandma’s.

I’m not trying to romanticize a road that can get very dark. Or gloss over the fears and heartbreak. But I’m Mom. And my job is to keep the cave warm, the songs playing, and to never forget to celebrate him for exactly the person he is.

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