This week has been an emotional week for me. As I sit here on my bed looking at some photos that were taken months before my son lost his ability to speak that I had never shared in social media, I tear up because I don’t remember the little boy before he stopped talking. I remember his smile because it is emblazoned in photographs, but I don’t remember his personality. That is really hard for me to type. I don’t remember much about those days because they feel like they never happened. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son and I love my daughter. Her personality I can remember before her diagnosis. I can remember her giggles and I find it hard today that I can’t remember his. Autism at 8 and 10 looks different from the early days. My boy used to eat five chicken nuggets from McDonald’s twice a day with Heinz ketchup and only Lay’s potato chips two meals a day. I was just happy that he would eat this and a packet of oatmeal then. Now at ten, he eats anything but beans. Meltdowns though are bigger because he is bigger. My daughter back then sounded like a child with a hearing impairment. Now at eight, she is smart as a whip and talks you to pieces. Life has changed dramatically since then. Even though they still get themselves into dangerous situations, my daughter with her third degree burn last year from an experiment that she thought up, to my son running out of our house and up the driveway in his underwear on a Monday morning, it is not as bad as it used to be when we would have every day occurrences.
Autism gets older, it gets bigger. The diagnosis does not change. My daughter is higher functioning and will be able to do fine in what ever she chooses to do. For the past two years, she has proclaimed she wants to be a stunt woman. I have no question with her lack of fear she could do it, but her inability to feel pain troubles me. My son, all he has ever said he wants to be is a police officer and a dad. I pray that he can reach his dreams, but the realist in me is cautious and hopes that he dreams another dream. I know that they are young, but I am realistic about the future and where it may take us. My daughter and son still needs minimum to maximum assistance with bathing. My son needs help with his cologne and deodorant, maximum assistance. He doesn’t tie his shoes, he doesn’t button his shirts, he sometimes does not have the manual dexterity to button his pants. I still assist both of them in the bathroom and I brush their teeth for them at night, otherwise we would have cavities. This is my life. This is the life that few people know about. I am careful of the foods we eat, changing detergents, and changing my perfume because with the sensory disorder my son has, it could be an issue. We have an area in my house where the both stim. Her stim is less noticeable than his. She walks from one end of the room into the kitchen chatting where as he hops and runs and flaps his ears while verbally stimming. Routines are still huge in our house even though most people don’t realize they are on a routine because it seems so natural and we no longer need giant picture schedules posted on the wall. The one huge change though is when driving home, I can go in what ever direction I choose, there are no protest from the back seat that I missed a turn.
The journey of my life has had many bumps in the road, it has had twist and turns and I saved this post for today because Monday was my dear daughter’s birthday and today is my dear son’s birthday. It is one of the happiest weeks of the year for them, but for me, it is one of the saddest because I sometimes wonder, what would they be like without the diagnosis? Would my life be different? Would I have a full-time job somewhere and rush off to work in the afternoon before they get home from school? Would I still live in the neighboring town because I would not have to move for a better education for the three? Would I be remarried? Would my baggage be any different? When I find myself asking those questions, like today, I have to remind myself that God put my children in my hands for a reason and to snap out of it. He knew I was strong enough even though some days I feel so weak and helpless. Much like today. Though those questions will still linger, I know that my children are here to teach the world to be more tolerant. Our journey continues, our life will ebb and flow and more birthday’s will come and I will cry some more because of the what ifs. But I pray that some day, some how God will give me the strength to let those what ifs go. I used to admire parents that have “typical” kids. I no longer do because my children are special people and every time they walk into a different situation, they change the world. They are strong people that understand that they are different, but they don’t care. They are amazing and sometimes that gets lost in the day-to-day. Even though I have to bathe them and remind them that the stove is hot and not to touch, my dear daughter is in the second grade and can do math like a fourth grader and my dear son is reading on a fifth grade reading level in the fourth grade. We have come so far, yet we have so far to go. Autism at 8 and 10 is much different from autism at 3 and 5 and will be much different at 13 and 15. Happy Birthday to both of my babies. Momma will always love, protect, and support you no matter what.