How My Son With Autism Has Changed Me
The other day I was talking to a complete stranger at my son’s summer camp’s bus stop. We chatted like old friends. There is something that bonds us all together… the experiences, the pain, the joy, and the lessons. There is so much to share. We finally parted, promising a lunch date along with some spa time… knowing well, it was easier said than done
On my way back, I thought… I was never the kind of person to just approach someone and start talking. I preferred the comfort of familiarity. And today, here I was, chatting with someone I had never met and feeling the most at ease about it. It got me thinking – my son’s autism diagnosis has changed me as a person. It was time I gave autism its due.
Strong and Determined
I remember the days when I could never say no, disagree or put up my point – with conviction. I was mostly happy compromising so everyone around me felt good. Fast forward to today. I’m my son’s advocate. If I sit back and compromise, Vedant is not going to get his due. I had to stand up for him, at his IEP meetings, to his teachers, schools, therapists, doctors, local authorities, family, friends, strangers who wanted to judge him at a mall or a grocery store or a playground, and anyone who comes between Vedant and his well being. I am a stronger, more assertive person today, who will not take no for an answer when it comes to her son. Autism has taught me to speak up and speak out for what is right, to have Vedant’s back all the time. It has made me extremely fierce and utterly determined.
The Elusive Patience
Let’s talk about patience. A bad hair day was never a problem for me. All I needed to do was pick up those pair of scissors and chop off the unruly lock and I was all set. I didn’t have the patience to see things through. I could not revise my papers for a test patiently, I would not do DIYs because you would need to be patient for stuff to stick, grow, dry etc. I just could not wait. Oh well… neither could my son, who decided to come six weeks early. He could not wait either. I guess it’s in the genes. However, now I’m a more patient mom. I wait for his meltdown to pass. I have been waiting for him to reciprocate a hi. For the past four years I’ve been patiently trying to teach him the color red and am still working on it. I’m still waiting for him… patiently… to talk to me, to bring home a friend or to ask for a toy. I’ve learned to wait, to be patient and to keep trying because if there is one thing autism teaches you, it’s endurance.
The Glass Is Half Full
Optimism comes with the territory. I always hope for the best. Not that I was a pessimist but now I’m an eternal optimist. Optimism is what keeps me going because if I lose hope, I fail my son.
Show me a parent who is not resourceful and I’ll show you a child who will make them one. Every parent learns to find ways to make things work. It’s just that autism can throw in some extra challenges, so I’ve learned to use my imagination a little more and think out of the box. I can pick a mundane object and make it a sensory toy, or turn an activity into an occupational therapy task. With my son’s limited ability to eat, I’ve become chef of sorts and can transform quite a few foods into a more compatible meal. I don’t claim to be a supermom, but I think I’m getting the hang of it pretty well.
Today Is a Gift
The best thing is to not think too much about what lies ahead. Autism has taught me to live in the moment. I really don’t like to think far out into the future. It scares me. To think what would happen to my son after I’m gone… it sucks the life out of me. I used to cry and worry a lot. Not anymore. Not that often. I’ve chosen to enjoy what lies in front of me, take each day as it comes and celebrate the things Vedant is able to do and the progress he makes. I live in the moment, for the moment, for Vedant. I try not to worry too much over things I cannot control.
No More Judgment
Empathy… it’s a virtue we all pretend to have but not many actually possess. I’m not claiming to be the “angel of compassion,” but my ability to connect with someone else has increased manifold. I don’t rush to judgment anymore. I try putting myself in another’s place and see things from a different perspective… I really do. This is a change I’m proud of. I’ve been a victim of judgment, so I cannot afford to be the culprit. When people judged my husband and me every time Vedant had a meltdown or a behavior, I know how it felt. You don’t walk around with a board on your forehead telling people your story. You shouldn’t have to. People are either supposed to understand, offer to help in some way, or mind their own business. With my son’s autism, I’ve found a better way to connect to others.
Parents who have a child with sleep issues know pretty well how much of a luxury a good night’s sleep. They say successful people sleep less. Well, I’ve got the “sleep less” part mastered; now I’m just waiting to be successful. I believe, my son has made me a stronger, softer, and more confident individual. The changes did not happen overnight. My son leads the way for me to be the person I was meant to be so I can look our challenges in the eye and tell them I’m ready. We are ready.