To My Son on the Autism Spectrum Who Has Taught Me So Much

Seven years ago, I welcomed you into my life. I had little knowledge of how much you would change it. I didn’t know how much you would teach me to be better — as a mother and a person.

I thought after four children I would know how to raise you, but you taught me we should never stop learning. You have taught me there is no “normal,” that different is not less, and that every heart beats its own rhythm.

The rare moments when I did not feel strong enough, when I could not seem to break an invisible boundary into your world — you taught me strength is not dependent on my physical abilities, but rather in my will to fight for someone I love.

The days I apologized for you — you taught me I do not need to apologize to others for you, but that I should have compassion for them. Because what does it matter what they think they know? You taught me to see they just do not understand.

The day my heart burst because I found a note under your pillow in your handwriting that said, “I am weird,” you smiled and said, “It’s OK, they don’t know my brain works different.” You taught me how much others lost if they didn’t accept and love you for who you are. It was their loss, and not ours. And so I learned to accept and love without limits even though I thought I had done that before.

Sometimes in my weak moments, when I believed I had failed you, those were the days you taught me I had not failed as a mother. Those were the days you let me embrace you when you cried; the days you would say, “I love you.”

The nights of restlessness, the times when all I could do was hold you so you would not hurt yourself — it was in those moments you taught me kindness, humility and patience.

And when I felt like a nag, because I wanted to educate and help others understand. When I felt I was pushy, overbearing, and being an overprotective mom — those were the times you came home from school happy. And you taught me it was courage and persistence and a battle I could fight.

But when I look back through the years, I realize above it all, you have taught me what unconditional love is. I have spent more silent moments with you than any other child of mine, looking into your eyes for some type of clue about your thoughts. But what you have taught me is I’m already there. I am enough. And you have taught me that in all my failures, or what I have viewed as failures, I have not failed at all. I have simply grown.

It’s not always easy. The days are sometimes long. Our family is a band of eight all learning from each other at different speeds. I have accepted that not everyone will understand what our life actually is behind these walls. I have accepted that as long as we stay together, we can provide you with what you need to thrive.

I have accepted that people may judge me, but I am doing the best I can and so it doesn’t matter. I have accepted that love will break boundaries, no matter how large or small. I have learned to accept everyone how they are.

I have accepted, I have grown, and I love deeply — and you have taught me that.

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