A Day Without Autism: A Mother’s Dream Come True

by J

During my last post, I talked about just how far we have come since we started this journey a year ago. It was just about six months ago, at S’s 2nd birthday, that I started this blog to document our journey. You may remember one of my first posts: When Autism Smacks You in the Face where I recounted our trip to the  aquarium. Much like any other public outing, our trip to the aquarium that day was rife with autism.

When I dreamt of having a child, I thought about all of my wonderful childhood memories and how I looked forward to sharing those same things with our child. When we learned that we were pregnant with S, I imagined all of the fun things we would do… the arts and crafts, the day trips, the play dates and all of the other special mother/child times that I imagine every parent dreams about sharing with their child. And don’t get me wrong… we do those things daily. We have several fun outings a week to the local children’t museum or the library. We visit the aquarium often, have play dates, do crafts, bake cookies, and we even participate in a weekly ABC class together at the local elementary school.

We do tons of fun things together. But sadly, I often feel like we are not really ‘together’.

In reality, I feel that much of our time is spent with me managing S. There is lots of preparation before our outings to make sure I have amble snacks, toys and other things to prevent meltdowns. While this may be typical for most parents of toddlers, I find that while we are out and about, Iam constantly trying to ‘read’ S’s mood to see if I can gage what his reaction will be for our next activity. I often find myself on edge, anticipating the inevitable meltdown and how I will plan my quick, but polite, escape. With all of this added anxiety, I find that I am not really ‘present’ with S. Sure, we are out doing fun things together, and posting fun pictures on Facebook where everyone thinks we are having a grand time together, but in reality, I know that we really aren’t ‘together’.

S is usually wrapped up in his skateboard, or the stairs, or a sign on the wall- completely oblivious to the super fun activity that the other children his age are enjoying…  and I’m just on edge hoping we can make it to nap time sans meltdown.

I’m still learning how to enter his world and to let go of the expectations that I had for motherhood. I’m learning that it might not be about baking cookies and fun trips, but really about how to make that tech deck to a really cool trick… again. I’m not going to lie, this is a hard adjustment and one that isn’t coming easy to me.

However, last week, I got a fantastic treat.

It started with a typical morning at school. After class, I knew we were going to do something, but I just didn’t know what. So, just for fun and expecting no usable response, I asked S what he wanted to do. Much to my surprise… he answered!

“Want go taco store.”

I was floored, and off we went! We enjoyed a nice meal together… it was great. After the “taco store” (Chipoltle) I then asked what he wanted to do next. Again, he answered!

“S go aquarium, see fish.”

Shocked again, we were off to the aquarium. At this point, we have been to the aquarium countless times. Usually, I enjoy looking at the fish, and S enjoys jumping on the stairs and running down the ramps. But this time, well, this time was different. WE looked at fish, WE looked at the turtles, WE did things TOGETHER. We shared glances, excitement and wonder. I finally saw his wide-eyed gaze as the sharks swam by and watched him giggle with excitement at the puffins splashing in the water. He high-fived the greeter on the way in and out, he held my hand, told me stories about what the fish were doing and not once, not once did he get wrapped up in the stairs.

For 4 glorious hours last Wednesday, I finally got to experience motherhood as I always imagined it would be. I felt so present with my son and so connected to him. Our day was not spent with his autistic obsessions and my uneasy anxieties of managing his behaviors.

It was just us, mother and son, enjoying a  meal and a trip the aquarium, together. It was one of my most favorite days of all times. And while I could hit rewind on that day forever, I know that it is more important for me to learn to enter S’s world and enjoy him, everyday, for who he is, for these days are few and far between. I need to learn to redefine my expectation of ‘together’ and learn to truly enjoy every moment with him, no matter how different they are from my expectations.