Not too long ago, I shared a story about my youngest son and a conversation I had with him in a moment where he wasn’t doing so well. Today, I’m sharing a letter to his big brother.
Ten years ago, you came to us, this tiny little bundle with your wide smile and knowing eyes. You melted our hearts. To this day, my favorite story is that of mama’s best friend coming to see you the day you were born, holding you, looking at your face and saying, “Does he have a birthmark or something so you know they don’t give you the wrong baby?”
I looked at her and smiled and laughed. “You mean something other than his cleft lip?” That moment is perfect to me because she looked at you and loved you and saw you in your perfection. Because you were born perfectly.
A few short months later, we said goodbye to the wide smile we’d become so accustomed to. I never knew how hard it was to hand your child over to a surgeon. I will never forget those hours you were in surgery having your lip repair. Never. I’ll also never forget the other times I’ve had to hand you over, sometimes screaming and crying, to the nurses who would hold you and care for you in the surgical room.
I will never forget the way you would look around, seeing the world, exploring the world with enthusiasm and care. I will never forget the way you always had to figure things out before you would play with them. I will never forget the way you loved bugs and had to know everything about them — then came plants, trains, dinosaurs, Pokemon and all things aquatic. I will never forget your thirst for knowledge, your love for your family and animals and reading. I will never forget you walking with the speech pathologist to your appointment and when she said with astonishment, “I’ve heard all I need to in the walk from the waiting room to the appointment. I’ve never heard an 18-month-old with this kind of vocabulary.” I’ll never forget at the same appointment, her being equally astonished that you knew your alphabet by sight and the letter sounds and that you could read small words.
I will never forget the first time I asked the pediatrician about autism. “He’s too social,” doctors said. I’ll never forget the years we struggled with food aversions. “He’ll eat when he’s hungry,” they said. I’ll never forget the years you had fevers of unknown origin. “He looks so healthy,” they said. I will never forget every time you have persevered. “He’s a survivor,” I said. I will never forget the day I decided to ask for an autism evaluation through the school. “But he’s doing fine,” they said.
Here we are. You are a freshly-turned 10-year-old boy who has the rest of his wonderful life in front of him. I can count on one hand the number of times in your life you’ve said, “That’s not fair.” I cannot, however, count how many times you’ve said, “I love you” to someone. I cannot count the number of ways you’ve made my life better. I cannot count the ways you amaze me. I cannot count the number of times you’ve made me proud.
I know that no matter what you decide to be when you grow up, you will have the drive and determination to make it happen. So many people have the luxury of walking through this world with no real challenges. You? In your ten short years, you’ve faced more challenges than I have in my lifetime. But with each and every challenge, you learn, you grow and you survive. Because of these challenges you’ve already conquered, you are ready. You are ready for more. You will face them head on, with determination like no other human I’ve ever known, and you will come out on top. I know this. I can feel it in my bones.
You, my love, are my heart. You are special. You are amazing. You are you. My hope for you is that you remember these things. That you hold on to the sense of self you have now. I hope you remain true to yourself and your convictions. I hope you find your people. Finding your people makes this life so much more bearable.
Find the ones who love you not despite your quirks but because of them. Find the ones who love your sense of humor. Find the ones who love your mind and your freckles. Find the ones who don’t mind you aren’t sporty, the ones who you can talk about books and art and documentaries with.
You, Big Brudder, are destined for great things. I cannot wait to watch you go and get them.
This post originally appeared on Autism in Our House.