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A Mother's Mantra

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Today, I will be here.

I will be here in this house with my kids and my dog and my son with special-needs and my husband who has dark, wavy hair.

Today, I will remember that when it comes to autism, there is no right. There is no wrong. There is just me, and a 14-year old boy, and we are both trying our very hardest.

I won’t think about all the stuff I wish I had done differently when he was little, like smiled at him more, or enrolled him in music class, or switched the laundry detergent to a better brand.

I won’t worry about the future, like if he will be able to find a job or make a friend.

I will remind myself that everyone the world over has twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty-two weeks a year.

A clock is just a clock. With the steady tick of its hands, it measures hours and minutes and seconds.

It does not measure joy, or progress, or pride.

It does not measure a boy.

Time does not measure a boy.

He will get there. When he’s ready.

Today, I will remember his autism was not a choice. He didn’t ask for it.

He didn’t ask for a brain that insists on schedule, or a body that needs to jump.

He did not ask to go to a special school.

He did ask me ninety-million times yesterday if I liked stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut though. That was kind of annoying.

I will remember that we all experience happiness differently.

We all experience success differently.

Today, I will wait. Through the silence, I will listen for intention. I will take three extra seconds, and really hear him. I will not rush him when he tries to speak, or shake my head impatiently.

I will make a point to talk about what he wants to talk about, instead of redirecting him to topics I feel are more appropriate.

And when he jumps in his favorite spot alongside the table in the kitchen, I will walk over, and I will jump with him.

I will join him in his world instead of stuffing him into mine.

I will be happy with who he is—wherever he is.

I will remind myself there is purpose behind his behavior.

There is a reason why he jumps.

There is a reason why he asks about stuffed crust pizza.

There is a reason why he goes to a school in another town and only has four kids in his class.

He has autism. This is his reason.

Today, I will remind him he is important.

I will remind him he is loved.

I will remind him he is safe.

I will stare down the slithering snake of anxiety, and coax it back into its corner. I will use gentle words, and soothing touches, and kind ideas.

Like a long strong hand on the end of a kite, I will hold onto my Jack-a-boo, and keep him in the here and now. I will tell him we don’t need to worry about hurricanes, or spiders in Brazil, or whether or not 6:30 pm is too late to eat dinner.

I will be vulnerable. If I need a break, I will ask for it.

If I need help, I will ask for it.

I will not compare him to his brother. I will not compare him to my neighbor’s son, or my nephew, or the boy on the bus.

And if we go out to a restaurant or to a Little League game, and someone stares at us, I won’t feel a twinge of upset-ness inside my heart.

I will remind myself that the staring is an opportunity to teach—to explain and to show and connect.

It’s a chance to change the conversation from about us to with us.

A conversation about us is dark. It is a secret whispered into a cupped palm, while their eyes shout out loud.

What’s wrong with him?

Did you see the way he jumped?

Could it be autism?

A conversation with us is light, and airy, and pretty.

Oh, he’s okay.

He just needs to move a little. It’s called stimming.

Yes, he has autism.

Yes, he has autism.

I will tell them things.

I will tell them he loves avocados.

I will tell them he is right-handed but sometimes he eats with his left hand, and

I will tell them that they can’t imagine what it’s like to love a boy like him.

Quietly, with steady words and a simple story, I will advocate for my son and his needs and our life.

Today, I will put my head down, and mind my own business.

I won’t get distracted by all the new studies on the Internet, or the articles that say there will never be any funding for a child like him, or that autism is caused by the pollen found on the knees of a bee.

Today, I will serve another mother. I will pat her shoulder, or open a door, or offer a small smile. I will ask if I can hold her bag while her toddler squirms in her arms.

Today, I will do the best I can.

I will remind myself that I know what I am doing, as much as anyone can possibly know what they’re doing.

I may lose my patience, or leave some laundry in the bottom of the basket. Maybe I won’t cook dinner, or I’ll snap at my dark-haired husband when he walks in the door ten minutes late. In the next twelve hours, anything is possible.

But I will forgive myself for my mistakes. When nighttime rolls around, I will lay my head upon my pillow and close my eyes. And when the morning sun blossoms like a new flower, I will begin again.

I will love this boy for who he is.

And I will love myself for who I am.

I will remember that in the midst of the mess, there is often a strange sort of beauty.

Today, I will be fearless.

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