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Challenge: Raising Kind Kids

How My Five Year Old Son Taught Me What Kindness Looks Like

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As a parent we never want to see our children in pain of any kind - physical, mental or emotional. In my opinion there is nothing worse than not being able to make it better for them - we advocate for what we think is best for them and we try to set guidelines that will keep them safe but also allow them to explore and discover on their own. We practice authentic communication - never wishing to shame or squander the spirit of our children as they evolve and unfold into their own unique person. Throw in autism and your experience is brought to an entirely different level. It is a constant practice to not be a helicopter parent - constantly hovering, making sure he is ok and that everyone in his life's experience is treating him with respect and making attempts to lift him up and set him up for the most amount of success. It becomes a life of fighting for what he needs, being vigilant and consistent, learning how to slightly tone down the mama-bear instinct and practice letting go.

I was told when my son was two years old that he most likely would never speak, attend school like his peers and may never understand, feel or reciprocate emotion, affection or authentic connection. He became my full-time job and my life quickly became consumed with servicing appointments, visual schedules and constant crisis management. It would have been so easy to give up - to give in to what everyone told me and resolve myself to the fact that he would never speak or attend school or understand what it meant when I said "I love you." But I couldn't. I desperately clung to the idea of possibility, hope and faith - it's what got me out of bed in the morning and through each day. By breathing positivity into my son I was keeping the fire within myself burning bright.

It makes my heart simply overjoyed that Myles just turned five, is fully verbal and enrolled full-time in school. Every day remains a challenge but our practiced belief of possibility, hope and faith has become our foundation from which we draw great strength. With each new day comes new experiences that we do our very best to navigate through without upturning our apple cart and slipping into a tantrum or meltdown that typically effects our family for a good 3-5 days. And while I wish I could be by his side all day every day, my practice has evolved into letting go and allowing him to explore the world on his own - with the guidelines we have established and a tremendously awesome team of people who hold Myles up and see his glory, his unique gifts and contributions that leave a smile on the hearts of many.

Myles knows no other way other than to be kind and show a level of empathy that so many could learn from, myself included. He simply loves everyone for who they are, never passing judgement based on what they are wearing, the words that come out of their mouths, by their actions or who they choose to sit with at the lunch table. So when Myles said to me the other day "mommy, I don't think the other kids get me" my heart literally hit the floor and jumped into my throat. My knee-jerk reaction was to ask who didn't get him and why. I was ready to pounce and could feel myself getting worked up, creating stories in my head that he was being teased or mistreated and why hadn't anyone stood up for him. I was ready to helicopter my way in there and make certain everyone got him! We proceeded to have a conversation about how most of the kids in his classroom don't like the way he plays - Myles creates these elaborate imaginary stories and wants more than anything for anyone to jump in and participate - but he proceeded to explain that some of his classroom friends never do, that they look at him funny and walk away. I asked him how that made him feel, half expecting him to not understand the question and not be able to formulate an answer "it makes me sad. But then I remember what you said to me 'believe in yourself and do what makes you happy.' Maybe one day mommy, they will change their minds and want to play with me."

I choked back my tears and held him so close but I quickly realized that the tears and holding him were my reaction, they were my need and when I paused, I could feel his resiliency - I could feel how grounded he was in his joy and adoration for playing the way he was playing and I could feel that he was cool with his friends not understanding, that it wasn't about him and he had no intention of changing or reading into it any more. And again, I thanked my lucky stars that autism has gifted my child with a unique and different way of approaching this world, that his heart is just so good and that my kid is the change I wish to see in this world. He continues to be my greatest teacher in how to live daring greatly in life and love and what it means to embody kindness and live authentically, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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