Wednesday, 3 July 2013

In Complete Awe

Any developmental milestones are amazing.  As an autism parent I have come to appreciate them even more in my children.  It's a great day when Nate gives me more eye contact- if I get a new word, there are tears, without question.

Before I go into what I want to talk about I need to make something clear.  You may hear a bit of a wistful tone during this description, but while I was observing what I did today, I was NOT sad at all.  I was nothing but amazed. 

I had a quick lunch with one of my closest friends and her son today.  He is about 19 months old, and it goes without saying, completely precious.  I have watched him grow- from about 4 weeks gestation on, and definitely feel a strong attachment to him.  He has faced his share of challenges thus far, and I don't want to down play that at all, because it was a really big deal.  What I do want to say is that this child completely BLEW my mind today.  Here I'll tell you why.

He was being what any mom would call difficult this morning.  It drives any mom a bit nuts when she is trying to have a conversation and her child doesn't want to sit still for a second.  All I can see now is a child that is noticing absolutely everything around him and wanting to explore.  During the course of lunch, I heard him say sissy, cake, more, milk, mommy, dog, no (multiple times, ha).  He tried a straw for the first time and got it right away (Nate has not quite figured this skill out yet).  The woman sitting next to us was "quizzing" him, where's your foot?  He looked down; where's your shirt?  he touched his chest.  Then we headed to the toy store for a quick trip, and what I observed there was nothing short of miraculous (to me).  I watched him play with a little table and chairs, sitting at the table, getting up, pulling the chairs out, putting other things on the chair; I watched him push a baby doll in a stroller, then pick the baby up and put it in the chair, then put it back in the stroller again.  I watched him examine the doll's mouth.  He unloaded an entire rack of stuffed animals, one by one, into my arms while his mom was looking at something on the other side of the store- he was so methodical about it!!  His mom brought over a toy piano and he pulled up the chair to try it out.  He tried to play it; he said an approximation of piano.  He repeated everything he heard, when his mom talked to me about another child he repeated the child's name.  He looked at his mom at one point and said sissy?  daddy?, clearly looking for them, thinking about them when they weren't there.

Finally I turned to his mom and said, can you even believe this??  She knows me well enough that she knew that I was in complete awe of these developments.  She has been very sensitive about what I go through with the boys and I think she was worried I was going to be upset.  And in the past I may have been.  Today, all I felt was completely elated to see this little boy doing so fantastically.  I tried to express this to my friend, telling her how amazing it is for me to see him repeating sounds, pointing, expressing independent thoughts, and playing appropriately with toys.  These are things that all parents look forward to seeing in their children, no doubt.  But to me, after the difficulties I have faced with both boys' developments, it is like I have just witnessed a true miracle.  I think that all parents need to stop sometimes and really take a moment to appreciate typical development.  I know that for me, it took watching my child struggle to truly appreciate it at the level I do now, but I think that if someone had really pointed out to me how amazing it was when Jack was developing speech like a maniac at 14 months, I may have taken a bit more notice of it.  I wish I could go back in time and really really watch what was happening; revel in it.  The next time your little one says a new word or tries something for the first time and succeeds, make yourself take a step back and really observe and think about it, no matter how busy you are.  It's unbelievable what little ones do.

Today was also a really big step for me.  I feel like I have moved past one more stage of "mourning" for my boys.  I don't mean to sound morose, but it is true that when your child is diagnosed with autism you go through a mourning period.  You have to say goodbye to the child/life that you pictured and find a way to accept the very different future that awaits you.  It has been painful for me to watch my friends' children developing normally up to this point.  It felt wonderful to be able to enjoy it again.

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