I never really thought I would utter the words "I'm thankful for autism" though I have and while I certainly have moments of self-doubt, feelings of being overwhelmed, wants of wishing life was easier for my daughter, there are so many things that I am thankful for, because of autism.
First, autism has allowed me to gain true friends. Choosing to be a friend to a person or with a family who lives with a loved one on the spectrum can be overwhelming. There have been countless friends that have come and gone but autism has allowed me to see who truly values myself, my family and my daughter for who we are. They listen when things get tough, the pick us up when we are down and they never ask for an apology when we have to leave someplace early because of well, autism. These friends, some old and some new choose to say "yes" to us even when saying "no" would be easier. For them, I am thankful.
Second, autism has given myself and my entire family a better understanding of what is most important in life. We no longer pine for the most expensive cars, best vacations or the most gifts under the tree, instead we are grateful for small successes (which extend outside our daughter with special needs). We choose to realize that small moments truly are what life is all about and find ourselves recounting the baby steps we all take even if its something small like an "A" on a Math Test or learning to use the potty. For that, I am thankful.
Third, we realize how lucky we are. Autism is hard. There is no doubt, just ask any one of my kids as they are skirting away from their sister when she's having an outburst. That being said, each of them will tell you the fact that they are lucky, at their young age they understand more than I could have ever taught them without autism in our lives. My children value others for who they are because of this journey. They each value unique abilities, the opportunity to find success in their own right. They also value health. Hearing the stories of our trips to the doctors or hospitals or the many Facebook pages I am on allow them to see how autism, while challenging and life altering is truly still easier than watching their sibling suffer in pain. For that, I am thankful.
Fourth, autism has given me a voice. I have always loved writing, sharing and learning however as a mother, staying at home I have felt lost. I wanted to work, but where? Instead, my work I realize is in the home and learning to share our with hope this journey could make life better for others who come behind us. It may be a blog, a conversation, a friend reaching out for a family member, no matter what it is, I am here. I believe that this is my reason for writing, speaking and sharing. I am constantly willing to learn, willing to listen and willing to share what I have learned so that one day someone may have less of a struggle than we first did. For that, I am thankful.
Fifth, autism has gotten me outside of myself and given me purpose. I realize that my life isn't lived for myself alone nor for my own satisfaction but for the opportunity to serve others. I truly believe that we were chosen to love, nurture and raise my daughter with extra needs to better ourselves and help others not just in the special needs community but anyone we encounter in our lives that need a little extra support. For this, I am thankful.
Sixth, the path we are on is better than the one we were on. I said it. I won't deny there are moments I miss competitive gymnastics or the small Catholic School we attended but reality is, this journey is better. Certainly it is harder. It is more challenging and scary at times but it forces us slow down, we see the world around us, from our daughters eyes and it reminds us that life is best when lived not raced through with some tangible goal in mind instead asking us to focus on the intrinsic gifts we once missed. For that, I am thankful.
Seventh, autism has given us an understanding of others and allowed us to release our own judgement of others. I won't lie, we were a bit judgemental. From a young age, I knew I was a better parent, I expected my children would be gifted and that following the "right" path I would get what I wanted when I wanted it. Sadly, until Seraphina, I believe I was raising my children to follow that path which I now realize was wrong. Autism has been a humbling experience that has lead me to realize that judgement of anyone has never gotten someone anywhere and so now, I am open to listening, learning, understanding and supporting. Always. I may not always agree, but I accept others for who they are and my children do too. For that, I am thankful.
Eight, my family. Our family was never complete. Autism has made it that way. This year, my parents chose to move nearly eight hours to share in this journey with me. Not only did they choose to adopt me and raise me with my baggage but to accept who I am with my family in tow changing their own life trajectory to live on this path with us. No words can ever describe the thanks I have nor the opportunity to spend their golden years with them. Without autism, perhaps we would not have them just a hop, skip and a jump away and for that I am most thankful.
Autism isn't the path I expected or wanted. It isn't the journey I chose but it is the path we are on, this year, I can finally say, I am thankful for autism not because of the challenges but for the beauty it has brought to my life. Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family and a huge hug to those walking, living and supporting this journey we are on. Every day I wake up I realize, I choose her. Always. For that, I am thankful.