“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