It’s a cloudy gloomy day this Saturday in SoCal, the Pineapple Express or something I heard, so it’s a mellow day around here. We aren’t outside running around (because really, we get chilled below 65! lol!) and Charlie seems to be enjoying the down-time playing in his over-toy-stuffed room. I was working on my computer, still working on my new website (ugghh!), and I knew I had a note around here somewhere that ended up bugging me until I had to take apart every “organized” pile on my desk! I have a little notebook/journal I keep with little mementos, notes from a few people, a few snapshots not on my computer, and random notes with a password or something I might need at some random time. I opened it and was completely consumed by the little pieces of paper I had saved, although I have been sitting eighteen inches from this notebook every day.
What caught my eye now seems like my lesson for this weekend. I have a picture that my ex-husband snapped in the first minutes we came home from the hospital after Charlie was born nine and half years ago. And with it is a piece of journal paper with words, or actually values, that I remember writing one night in bed while I was pregnant. I was up in the middle of the night, as happens while you are pregnant, imagining my future little bundle. I sat there in bed and wrote down a list of values I dreamt for my child.
I know, a few aren’t so much values, but I was pregnant, it was the middle of the night, haha! The years that followed the moment I wrote that note, or that moment when we brought our newborn baby boy home from the hospital, were none that any pregnant woman imagines when she’s happily expecting or none that any parent can stand to think as a possibility when you are walking into your home with your new baby for the first time. The years that followed brought Autism into our immediate awareness and as part of our lives for ever more.
With a diagnosis of Autism comes a range of emotions, of feelings, of consequences, of change and growth, for yourself and your child, for many years, and I imagine for years ahead of me still. One of the most intense and heartbreaking times comes in the first year when you realize the dreams you dreamt are not what you will have. And then the subsequent guilt over whether or not that is actually sad and the torment of realizing you will dream new dreams. You will still have your child. Your child. You still have immeasurable love for your child, perhaps more, it’s just not as you dreamt parenting would be. But as my mother pointed out when I came home from the hospital with a boy to a pink room and pink lace baby clothing (yep, that’s a story for another time, Charlie has been full of surprises from the get-go!), it’s still the same baby that was growing in your stomach. He’s just different than you thought. But that’s on you, he has no idea what you were expecting, he knows he’s truly “him.”
With a child with Autism, over many years, we begin to lose count of the number of “no’s” and “can’ts” and “won’ts” we will hear. From doctors saying he “won’t” do this or that, or teachers saying “he can’t do this,” or even friends and family giving us painful “no’s,” he’s not included, I think one of the blessings in disguise is that we learn to celebrate the “yeses!” We celebrate them with extreme joy and over-exuberant enthusiasm!! My child ate a new food?! You better believe I’m throwing a party with that new food as the centerpiece!! My child addressed me as “Mom” and not with a squeal? Woo-hoo!! Tears of joy followed by a silly happy dance and uncontrollable giggling for twenty minutes! Our small achievements are HUGE!
What struck me in this note that I found, was the fact that these values were my dreams for my child. Sure, I had dreams of him having tons of friends, going to the prom, graduation from high school and maybe ‘SC, marriage of his own, kids of his own; but these values were the important things to me. I wrote them down and kept them! And, after everything we’ve been through in all these years, after Autism has transformed our lives, our homes, our dreams, these dreams, my dreams for my then unborn child remain, and in fact, came true! That thought gives me tears of joy. I feel a happy dance brewing!
My Charlie, with full-on “severe” Autism, has all of these values on my dream list! He has more love than anyone I know, and receives more love than anyone I know. He is the kindest soul there is, anyone who meets him agrees. I have a graphic that I have posted sharing Charlie’s empathy, he caresses the cheeks of anyone crying or upset. I think if there is one thing you know from a person with Autism, it’s sincerity, there are no deceptions, they are straight forward. The same can be said for the rest of the values, consequence, loyalty, morality. Charlie has them in abundance.
My lesson shared today for any parents with Autism is this… What did you dream for your child? I mean beyond the prom, the graduations, the future grandkids… what kind of person did you hope your child would be? Has Autism really taken that away! I would have to bet, No! Our lives will forever be changed, forever be the unexpected. But today, I am celebrating. I am celebrating the small, but HUGE dreams come true!! Charlie is a dream come true!
** happy dance ensues**