What’s it like being a parent to a child with Autism?
In some ways, it’s just like being a parent to any child. You love them more than you ever thought you could love anything in your life. You want to protect them, provide for them. They make you smile. They make you cry. They drive you crazy. They melt your heart.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s also brutal. Yes, I said it, brutal. I had to let go of the imaginary child I envisioned I’d have and the type of mom I’d imagined I’d be to that child. I had to allow myself to grieve that loss and give myself permission to be sad. And some days, I’m still so very sad. Not so much for myself, as much as my daughter. My life is nowhere as carefree as it once was. I watch some of my friends and envy how relaxed they can be with their children, while I’m constantly and vigilantly watching my little girl.
I worry for her present-day life. Are children being kind or cruel to her? Will she be invited on a playdate or to another birthday party? Will she have real, true friends beyond these innocent years? I worry for her future. What happens when I’m gone? Will she go to college? Will she get married? Will she have a job? Will she have children of her own? So many questions, so few answers.
Here’s what I do know. This little girl has taught me more in her 9 years on this planet than I learned in the 33 years leading up to having her. She’s taught me what courage is. What real strength looks like. How to persevere when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. She teaches me patience. DAILY. I’ve learned to celebrate every victory, no matter big or small, because for us, they are all big victories. I’ve learned to take joy in the little things. Listening to her sing along to music in the car might just be one of the best parts of my day. I’ve discovered that you should never underestimate her or her abilities. Most importantly, she’s taught me about love. Unconditional, unwavering, not always pretty, fierce love.
Her heart is innocent and pure. She’s not tainted by societal bias or rules. Her spirit is free and she does what she feels in the moment. That’s a beautiful thing. Can any of us claim that? I have a fervent wish that everyone could see the side of her that I see. The times when we’re alone, it’s quiet and she’s completely comfortable with me. There is so much in her heart and mind that only a few are privileged enough to get a glimpse of.
So yes, in many ways being an Autism parent means I’m very much like any other parent. But maybe we’re a little more, dare I say, badass, because we must be. The responsibility we bear is just a bit heavier and yet, so very worth it.
“Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home
Settle down, it’ll all be clear Don’t pay no mind to the demons They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone Cause I’m going to make this place your home”
Home by Phillip Phillips
Mary Peters is the Director of Resource Coordination at MHP, www.medhomeplus.org MHP is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond that employs parents successfully navigating the system of care for their children. This innovative staffing model has allowed MHP to forge a unique connection with families in need based on experience, empathy and trust. MHP serves families and the professionals that support them regardless of diagnosis (or a lack thereof). At MHP, your child is our mission. Please contact us at www.medhomeplus.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 804-330-5030.