You've got this, mom. You don't even know how well you've got this. As your child's therapist, I come into your home every week. You apologize for the mess and I smile as I tell you not to worry about it. If you think my house isn't a pancake disaster with syrup sticking to everything on Saturday mornings, you're mistaken. You apologize for your disheveled hair and sweatpants. I tell you that I live in my yoga pants the second I walk into my home. I once was a stranger but now I consider you a friend. You allow me to come into your home every week to teach you strategies. You know this boy better than anyone, but you allow me to come into your territory and give you suggestions on what to do differently. That's a very gracious thing for a mom to do. We spend a lot of time on trial and error and it is not lost on me that this part is hard. I try to imagine being in your shoes, at that moment, and I don't think I could do it with a smile on my face such as you. Sometimes our strategies don't work, but you allow me to try again, once the meltdown is over. Your patience with me- and this moment- is incredible.
I was the person who gradually introduced you to the idea of autism. This was hard for me, because I'm a mom, too. I don't think I was telling you anything you didn't already know deep down. I was there as you started this journey of the unknown. We started to connect the dots, together. I was with you before there was a 'label'. We cried together. What you don't understand is that our first session after the label, I saw your child just as I had before. Those big, beautiful eyes were just as beautiful this week as they were the same day we met. I don't see your child any differently. He is brilliant. He is hilarious. He is perfect.
I have been in your kitchen when you've opened your pantry to discover that the imperative cracker box is empty. I have been there when the dino chicken nugget was missing its tail and witnessed the meltdown that pursued. I have been there to see the way you handle every situation with more patience and grace than any other mom could. I have been there when you've gotten an invitation for an out of state wedding and you confide that such a trip could never happen with your child's needs. I was there when he said some of his first words - we cried and laughed and cried some more. He's not my child, but I love him beyond words. I'm proud of him, so incredibly proud. But you know what? I'm proud of you, too. That little boy got from here to there because of you, mom. You have been his voice and you have been his ally. You make an amazing advocate. You're a trailblazer for the moms who will someday be in your shoes. This journey is not an easy one. You already know this.
April is Autism Awareness month. There are blue t-shirts and business logos embracing the familiar autism puzzle piece logo. You don't need this month - it's for the rest of us. Every minute of every day you are advocating for safety and seeking the most evidence-based practices for communication. April is no different. When you are a mom of a child with autism, there are no breaks. There is no rest. But maybe this April, with the blue shirts and the logos, others will gain a new perspective and understanding. Just maybe. My prayer for you this month is that the world starts to see you the way I do. My prayer is that you will look in the mirror and see yourself the way I do. You are strong, courageous, and admirable.
When I look at your little boy, I think about how lucky he is to have a mom like you. You've got this, mom.