When Myles was just over two years old I was told that he more than likely would never be able to hold a conversation, attend school like all the other children, understand or comprehend socio-emotional context or grow up to be a functional member of society. I remember literally sitting six inches away from his face and banging a metal spoon on a pot, sobbing, desperately hoping that he would snap out of it and come back to me, but he simply stared right through me into space.
I remember the pain, unbelievable sadness and sheer isolation I felt. It was without a doubt the most trying time in my personal life, my parenting career and in our marriage. My heart ached; it ached for my dear sweet boy, it ached for our marriage that began to literally crumble before my eyes and it ached for the future that I had envisioned. I felt cheated, robbed and abandoned. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t wonder “why?” Why me, why him, why us?
As time continued to move on, I realized my life had stopped. I was stuck hanging on to that moment in time around my kitchen table, replaying over and over what I was told. And while it didn’t happen all at once like a bolt of lightening but rather gradually, I realized that time stood still for no one, and I was being dragged, through the dirt… and how could I possibly see anything other than the muck and mire that was in front of my eyes. Something had to change. And when I decided to stand up and walk on my own volition and forge my own path, is when the game started to change.
Don’t get me wrong, the climb back out of that hole was not pretty! And I wouldn’t be human, or a concerned mommy if I didn’t wonder along the way, whether my kid would ever say my name again, or if he’d ever ride a bus, or have a friend, or feel and understand what love was but I kept moving forward. I kept practicing, I kept trying. Some things worked, some things didn’t, I had failure after failure but it didn’t stop me…
Fast forward almost exactly three years and he hands me a torn piece of paper with a pencil drawn flower which was given to Myles by a little angel on his bus that day. He came running inside the house holding it up like he had found a bathtub full of fruit snacks, “mommy, mommy, look what ‘C’ drew for me on the bus today!” He was beaming from ear to ear, tears filled my eyes and I cried. I held him so tight and I kid you not, I was momentarily transported back to that moment around my kitchen table three years ago and felt my heart skip a beat!
I know now without a doubt in my mind that we have endured and experienced everything that we have so I can know what pain, sorrow, hopelessness and fear feel like from the inside. I know failure, resentment, shame and I know rock bottom. I know first hand what it can do to the human heart and head and how we try to cope, manage, numb and check out just to simply survive one more day. But I also know now that failure is simply part of the journey. And most importantly, I know now what gratitude, patience, empathy, and true love feels like.
I thank you Myles, for you are my ultimate teacher in how to live and lead, daring greatly, in life and love. You have taught me how to love myself and others for who we are, how to appreciate the little things in life and how to turn inwards to find truth, strength and hope. Through autism I have discovered my strength, passion and empathy. It has shaped who I am and who I am… I am so proud of!