Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I hated autism. I HATED autism. I wasn’t about to stick an “Autism Awareness” magnet on the back of my minivan, because as far as I was concerned, autism had ruined my once idyllic life.However, after many months on the rollercoaster of one day feeling hopeful and the next in despair, I am slowly beginning to realize that autism is a gift – perhaps even the greatest gift that I’ve ever received. I still struggle to see it through the frustration and disappointment that I sometimes feel, but when the clouds lift and I can see things most clearly, I know that it’s true.There are many things that autism has taken from me. I don’t have silly stories to share about things that Luke said like other mothers do. Luke doesn’t create homemade love gifts or bring me fistfuls of grubby flowers picked from the yard. He doesn’t call me “Mommy.” I don’t enjoy the luxury of having normal concerns about my children’s development, health and future. When I was pregnant Luke didn’t understand that he was getting a sister, and he doesn’t look forward to Christmas or birthdays with anticipation. All that being said, autism has given me so much more.
Unlike other mothers I’ve spoken with, I’ve never lost sleep over not having an immaculate house. I don’t stress over preparing meals. That’s what microwaves are for. It’s not that hard for me to skip the non-essentials and focus on the job that I won’t ever get a second chance to do right. My singular priority every day is that Luke and Faith get the best that I have to offer.
I’ve also come to appreciate that autism is a part of Luke. It does not define him, but it is inextricably woven into who he is – and who I love. So, I can’t hate autism any more than I can hate the way he tucks his fists under his chin when he gets excited, or the way his eyes dance when he knows he did something amazing.
As far as the unmet expectations go, there is hope. With every milestone that Luke meets, and with every new skill he masters, a little bit of the sorrow goes away, and is replaced with a joy that is so much sweeter because of the longing and effort that went into it.
Most parents say that they would give up everything for their kids, and I imagine that many of them really would, but I’ve been given the unique opportunity to prove it. As I think about all the blessings that autism has given me – the lessons I’m learning – I can tell you without hesitation that autism is making me a better mother, a better wife, a better Christian, and a better person, and those are all very good gifts.