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When I Realized My Nonverbal Autistic Son Didn't Need to 'Catch Up'

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You’ve been walking quite a bit these days. You like walking; it calms you. You like to look at the birds, the sky. You open your mouth to take in the wind. Puddles are too good to pass by without engagement. You usually hold my hand. We talk about what we see. You repeat. You look, you smile, you laugh. Sometimes you point.

But this day you let go of my hand. Unafraid and free. You needed to move at your pace, faster than me.

You needed to feel the ground on your own. So I let you.

I gleamed with pride that you could. You could skip over the large roots, balance yourself. Something you probably couldn’t have done just a year ago.

I was tired, but you weren’t. Nothing new, really. Your energy is infinite; mine is limited.

I had to stop to catch my breath, but you kept going. And watching your happy steps, listening to you hum to yourself, it hit me.

It hit me then and there that all this time, I was trying to get you to catch up. Catch up to the pack, catch up on the things you had lost out on all these years.

As I took my heavy breaths, I could feel the tears stream down my face. It finally dawned on me in that moment, my child, that it wasn’t you that needed to “catch up,” but it was the world that hadn’t yet caught up to you.

We were the ones that didn’t have the answers. Or the answers we thought we needed to find.

We were the ones that expected you to be and move and behave as we do.

We were the ones that checked off boxes and made notes. We were the ones that feverishly looked to help you. Save you. Make you more like us.

We were the ones that grieved what seemed like loss. We were the ones that asked you to look at us, to imitate us, speak like us, dance like us, eat like us, love like us.

When all you really wanted was to do all those things the way you knew how.

It wasn’t you. It isn’t you. You are perfect in all your infinite beauty and wonder. It’s us, son — we haven’t caught up to you.

Be patient, child.

I’m getting close.

This story originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

Getty image by Kari Hoglund.

Originally published: May 18, 2020
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