Once upon a time, a girl named Trish married her best friend, Jake. It was a beautiful affair — nothing fancy, just right. She’d had dreams of that day as a little girl — marrying the man of her dreams and being carried over the threshold of their pretty little home (don’t forget the white picket fence). They would have two children, a boy and a girl. That’s where it got interesting.
Because my life went nothing as I planned it to… not even close.
Yes, I got married but forgot to mention that those two little girls of ours were in the wedding party. Here they are, pleased as punch to get all dolled up for the day.
Gasp! I haven’t even got to the most sordid part of all; don’t stop reading yet. Two years later, after a healthy pregnancy, our third child, Timothy, was born. Husband, check; girl(s), check; boy, check. Not the family of four I had imagined, but, meh, I can improvise, I thought. But fate was fickle. Baby Timothy was acting strangely — not neuro-typically.
The cards had been dealt, the dealer had a royal flush… and I? Skunked. Sh*t cards, ripped off — or so I thought. Self pity was my best friend for a while; I denied the truth for months, years even. I thought if I cried enough tears to fill an ocean, ignored the diagnosis and tried real hard, I could fix him. I thought if I dress him up cute, people may not notice his differences and give him a chance. Wryly, I look back with humor because, of course, they still noticed. Duh! Timothy has nonverbal autism and is low functioning.
In those early days, I tried to be SuperMom. I watched Youtube videos on Martha Stewart Living (before she went to jail). I cooked everything from scratch — if there was a recipe to cure autism, I cooked it. I cleaned. I did laundry, and I went to work on weekends. I missed so many opportunities to have fun with my children and live life because I lived with fog over my eyes trying to be the perfect mom and wife.
One day not long ago, I had an epiphany. Screw it.
I’m no superwoman, and I won’t pretend to be anymore. I’m not a perfect or even really good mom. I yell when I’m frustrated and cuss when I’m annoyed. I like a cold beer on a really hot day. I burp and fart when I’m alone (and sometimes when I’m not!). Hey, everybody poops. You know how it goes…
Bottom line is this: My kids feel loved. They know they matter.
Screw the rest.
It’s humble pie I eat now. When your kid eats nothing — not a little, literally nothing whatsoever — you will buy him McDonald’s fries every day if that’s what it takes to get him to eat. So that’s what we do. Yes, I’ve heard the “They won’t starve. They’ll eat when they’re hungry” bit, and I”m here to tell you no he won’t. That rule doesn’t apply to my son or to those with extreme sensory aversions.
I can’t say for certain what he feels or what he knows, but back then, in those scary first months, he didn’t know hunger. He was mere days from being hospitalized. We lived in fear. If Timothy had a cracker or a donut to eat that day, that was it. That was a success, and I could let myself sleep that night.
Back then, I couldn’t say the words I can freely say now:
Timothy has autism.
We eat processed foods sometimes. Frozen food. I do the laundry whenever I have time — same with cleaning. I rarely apologize anymore for my often messy abode and don’t really care.
Those things don’t matter, really, in the scheme of things.
It’s taken me a long freaking time to realize what does matter. Family. Love. Accepting myself and others for how imperfectly perfect we are. Living for the moment.
I’m not special. Kids like Timothy aren’t born to special people. They are born to teach us. They make us better just to know them. They make better parents, better brothers and better sisters. We are the lucky ones, and I truly mean that.
Timothy is teaching me how to live in his world. He’s been teaching me all along. I just missed the clues.
To the newly “ausome” parents, stick with it. Don’t get lost in the diagnosis and waste precious opportunities to learn about your child like I did. If I had to look back, it’s my biggest regret.
This post originally appeared on The Book of Timothy.
Read more from Tricia Rhynold on The Mighty:
My Kid Is the One Trying to Get In Your House This Halloween
Why Trying to Make My Son One of the ‘Normals’ Isn’t Worth It
10 Things I Learned From Being a Special Needs Parent