Oh, the Things You Can Do

“Hi, this is Danger*. He has autism.”

This is becoming a common introduction in my day. And while ago it’s one I couldn’t have managed to make so easily. But as time and acceptance have gone on its become easier to simply say the words that will help other people relate to my son.

When I think back on the journey I can see how far I’ve come. How far we have all come. For some reason I was always afraid I would have a child with autism. It was the thing I didn’t want to deal with. The thing I prayed I would be spared. I don’t know why, I only know that the idea of it terrified me. That the thought of raising a child with those particular special needs seemed bleak.

The diagnosis came slowly, starting with an evaluation when he was not quite two that left us with the evaluator saying: he shows characteristics in keeping with other children who have mild to moderate autism.

I remember sitting on the floor and holding him, crying. Because I knew then. I knew that this was the path we would walk no matter how much it scared me. No matter how much I had hoped, even before having children, that this would not be my life.

But then I realized that he was still the same child I had held in my arms only two hours before. Before those words were spoken. Before any diagnosis was made. A lot of the fear that I had felt, a lot of the crushing worry over the realization that I did have a child with autism was eased. Because I knew this child. And I already loved him.

I think it’s easy to look around at the hardships other people face and think that we could never endure that. That they must be particularly strong, or brave. But I think what it comes down to is that those of us who can face our fears and come out the other side not only surviving, but thriving do so because of love.

I think of myself as a normal parent. I am a normal parent. A normal person.

I’m stumbling through the same as anyone else, making mistakes, sometimes feeling sorry for myself, readjusting my expectations, readjusting my perspective.

But we aren’t just surviving, we are thriving. Autism isn’t something I have to endure. It isn’t something that has come into my life to steal the joy, as I imagined it would be. I didn’t think I would be up to this challenge, but my perspective on it was all wrong. Like all parenting, like all of life, it is a daily challenge. Sometimes we get knocked down by it, but then we get back up and keep going because it’s all anyone can do.

I look back on the frightened mother that I was, holding her child, feeling like the weight of all her deepest fears was resting on her and I can only be happy that I was wrong about my future. Because it was not something to be endured, but something to be embraced.

I’ve learned that when love crashes into a challenge, that challenge doesn’t stand a chance. Love makes so many hard things easy. It makes walking into the frightening things possible. I suppose this is why the greatest is love.

You all know from previous blog posts that this isn’t always easy, but nothing is. We all have challenges whether they’re small ones on any given day, or marathon challenges the stretch on for months, years. But it is amazing what we can do. It is amazing what we can do with a smile on our faces.

I know I’m amazed at how something that terrified me so much, something I was afraid would destroy everything I had, has become a part of our lives in such a way that I can’t even imagine it lifting out. It’s a part of what makes the shape of our family. A family that is imperfect, but held together by love.

Life presents us with so many unexpected challenges, and it’s tempting to sit down sometimes and cry. That’s what I did. But in the end I got back up. And that’s the important part.

Whatever your challenges, keep moving. Keep going. Keep loving. You are stronger than you think you are.

*the names of the Dangerous have been changed

4 thoughts on “Oh, the Things You Can Do

  1. This really hits home for me. I remember that feeling of loss when my twins were diagnosed with autism at the age of three. I went through that period of morning for the boys they would never be until I came to realize, like you, that I had already loved them for three years just the way they were and that the diagnosis hadn’t changed them. Now we are embarking on puberty with them and it is definitely a challenge but this is my life.
    It’s interesting that when my youngest was also diagnosed 2 year ago, I was completely fine with it. I knew from the time he was 2 months old that it was very likely he would also be diagnosed with autism, so when the time finally came to have it officially declared it was more like a formality and not the life changing event it was with the twins.
    I am nearly 10 years post diagnosis of the twins and while it has been challenging at times it has also been such a blessing in our lives to be the parents of these amazing boys.
    Your statement about thriving and not surviving brings to mind two things. First it reminds me of the lovely movie WALL-E, which was my typical boy’s favorite movie for years. While it’s a movie with little dialogue the line that always got to me was when the captain said he didn’t want to survive he wanted to live. Secondly, there is a new song out by the Christian band Casting Crowns called Thrive and the song says exactly the same thing. We don’t want to just survive, we want to Thrive.

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  2. Great post, Maisey. Raising an autistic child is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, but we get stronger with every mile we run. I’m even more grateful for that now that my son is almost grown. I’m a very different person from having lived the past 18 years with my boy than I would have been if he’d been a neuro-typical child. That “difference” has made my life richer and my family stronger in ways I never would have imagined. “Danger” is lucky to have you!

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  3. Maisey,

    It’s a cliche to say that parenting a special needs child (or parenting in general) is a journey, but it’s so true and I say it a lot. You don’t have much of a road map, so you stumble along at first and there are still times I feel lost or turned around, but it gets easier to pick yourself up and keep going.

    It’s hard b/c some people can’t see past the “hard” and the “different” to see that there is also a lot of joy and happiness. It’s not black and white. I have a member of my family where every time she sees us she talks about how hard and sad our lives are and how “we love him but . . . ”
    I’m sure she feels like she’s being sympathetic, but yeah, not helpful.

    And I want to say —
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It’s meant a lot to me. As someone who has an autistic son and wants to be a romance3 writer, I’ve struggled a lot with “mama guilt.” How could I want to do something so frivolous when my son needs so much help? Not to mention my neurotypical son, who needs help, love, and support too. But I’ve realized something that is meaningful to me makes me a better Mama. 🙂

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