All of This Went Away When My Son First Said ‘I Love You’

My 5-year-old son with autism said “I love you” today. Unprompted for the first time. Not as a repetitive response mimicking my own declaration (the norm) but on his own accord. My son said “I love you” today, and my entire world stopped. I paused in disbelief and inhaled sharply, painfully, quickly, as a rush of emotion overcame my entire being, tightening up, constricting my throat, choking me, burning my nose and chest. I closed my eyes as I pulled him against me, squeezing him, wrapping him up with every once of joy imaginable… and life was suddenly perfect.

Gone was the chaos and frustration of our day.

Gone was the look that woman gave me across the parking lot when my son slapped me hard in the face as he screamed and dropped to the ground, kicking at me, hands covering his ears to drown out the pain of the noise around him.

Gone was the memory of the policeman who came to reprimand me for not controlling my child in public.

Gone was the exhaustion of trying to do simple everyday morning errands while wondering what challenges we’d face this time.

Gone was the feeling that I wasn’t sure how I would make it through another hour without support.

Gone was the anger I felt when a task as easy as stopping to pick up a gallon of milk took it all out of me.

Gone was the hurt and sadness I felt for my son as I caught a glimpse of his sweet little face in the rearview mirror finally calm and smiling up at me.

All of it gone.

Because in that moment, we connected, and the universe reminded me of everything I’m grateful for. My light, my world, my heart, my son. I’m better now because of you.

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