By Kristi Wagner, Parent Contributor
I remember bringing home my first born son from the hospital. I was obsessed. Overwhelmed by the staggering responsibility of taking care of this little life. And overwhelmed by the perfect beauty of our precious baby. Sheer, blinding love.
Those first months were a blur of holding him and nursing him a LOT. One night when he was three months old he was having a really hard time sleeping. Again. And, again, I did everything I could. But this time nothing worked. And he ended up shrieking for several minutes, inconsolable. I was devastated. I felt like a failure as a mom. And pretty much all I did was “mom,” so the feeling of failure and desperation ran deep.
So began my journey- the first of many books and frantic mom research to help my helpless little son.
It wasn’t until he was about seven years old that we realized he had autism. And the journey continued. More research and books and support groups. Massive diet overhauls and sensory work and exhaustion and perseverance. And the poignant joy and work of having three more children.
And now he is a handsome, tall, pimply teenage boy. And he remembers football scores and history events impeccably. He reads and writes and is the model of discipline in completing his chores and home school work. I catch glimpses of a great man growing in him.
And then there are other times. When the video game isn’t going his way, and the faulty executive function in his brain betrays him. He throws the remote and storms to his room, crying and screaming like a toddler. And my heart breaks for this amazing young man who did not ask to have autism.
I’m struck by his patience through it all. It is his life, I suppose. It’s all he knows. He’s used to sounds being too loud. Crowds of people being overwhelming. Emotions flaring out of control.
So, I’ve learned to be a little more patient through it, too. I’ve learned that many times I can’t fix the problem. I sit with him sadly. My heart fully sharing the pain. I offer some juice or lure the dog to comfort him. And we get over it together.
I am learning to embrace the bitter and the sweet in this journey my son travels. He may work through the many struggles enough to find a fulfilling niche as an independent adult. And he may not.
In the meantime we find meaning and hope in the knowledge that there is more to life than perfect social skills and high end careers. Deep joy surges in the mystery that we live in an upside down world. The truth is that in the ways that really matter the weak are strong, the last are first, and the losers are the ultimate, beautiful winners.
What a privilege is mine that I get to be the mom as I fiercely love this boy! My heart and prayers stretch upward as I haltingly release this precious gift into the purposes for which he was created.