When my son was diagnosed with Autism back in 1997, his neurologist said something I will never forget. She said, “You did everything you were supposed to. You are just a very unlucky person.” I said something back to her and I never took my son to see her again. I was also sure to warn other parents looking for a neurologist to stay away from her.
My son’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting was held a few weeks ago and all through the meeting various participants from my son’s teacher and one on one aide to our home district’s out-placement coordinator would stop what they were saying to heap mountains of praise on my husband and I. We were told time and time again how much we are admired for our dedication to our son, our efforts at advocating for his needs, our concerns for his well being, and our “obvious bond” with Junior.
Apparently, it still surprises experts that a child with Autism can have a genuine bond with their others. Still, everyone agreed that Junior was lucky to have us for parents.
Just a few days ago, my son had an appointment with his orthopedist concerning a developing leg deformity. Dr. Shaw still isn’t quite sure what is wrong with him and we are being referred to one of his partners who has more experience with children.
However, Dr. Shaw spent several extra minutes with us asking us questions about Junior and how Autism affects him as well as us as a family. He dished out more than his share of praise and his admiration of our patience, devotion, concern, and obvious love for our son. He told us that over the years, he has seen many parents of many types of children in his practice and just out in the community who lose their patience or write off their children. He ends the visit with his assertion that Junior is lucky to have us for parents.
I am always embarrassed by such praise and admiration. I do think I am a great mom, full of love for my son but I don’t like the idea that I am something most moms aren’t. I am not perfect. I get frustrated. I am afraid when I think of Junior’s future, to the point of having panic attacks and crying myself to sleep. I don’t see myself as unlucky. I see my son as being unfortunate to have Autism. While I have met plenty of people I wouldn’t want to see have a child with disabilities, I still don’t think Junior is the lucky one. I am the lucky one.
Having Junior for a son has been such an enlightening and joyful experience. I have learned impatience serves no purpose (although it still happens from time to time). Asking “Why” when it comes to fate or destiny doesn’t yield answers. If I want tolerance for my son and all those like him, then I must offer up tolerance to those I made little effort in understanding.
While I was once incapable of ordering at a drive-thru, asking a clerk for the nearest restroom, or even ordering a pizza on the phone, much less standing up for myself or anyone else…I learned to speak up for myself, for my son, and others. The things I give up for Junior’s sake aren’t sacrifices, they are just things or activities that are trivial compared to my son and his needs.
I have learned not to trivialize the accomplishments of anyone. Watching my son struggle to learn the small things years after most other people learn them has taught me valuable lessons. I don’t take nearly as many things for granted. From Junior, I have learned to never give up on my own goals and to encourage others in their own. I envy Junior’s innocence and shun the idea of original sin or the idea that if he doesn’t live by dogma, he will surely rot. I feel free of such religious dogma and embrace the spirituality I was born with and I am happier for it.
I could go on and on about all the things I have learned from being Junior’s mom. Maybe I would have learned all this whether Junior had Autism or not. I can never know that and it doesn’t even really matter anymore. Junior might very well be lucky to have my husband and I for his parents. However, I can’t help but feel that he has taught me more than I ever could have learned without him and certainly more than I have taught him. I confess that as far as luck goes…I am the lucky one. I am blessed to have Junior for a son and I make every effort to let him know that whenever possible.
Have you learned anything through your child? What has your child taught you?