As the mother of three beautiful children I can honestly and freely say I love each one of them, their uniqueness and personalities, the same. They’re each cuddled up in their own special corner in my heart.
My youngest, diagnosed with autism at age 3, is no different to me than the other two, my love and care for him is the same. However, he has required much more hands on parenting. When my older were preschool-age, I could teach them to say “Good morning Mrs. Peterson!” One, two, three and they got it. They would say it automatically. Most of the things I wanted them to learn, I taught them casually and it stuck, for the most part. Parenting autism requires more attention, more repetition, constant prompting and it is exhausting.
That said, I hope you will understand my overly crazy excitement about what I’m sharing next. My husband and I have spent years, prompting and leading our son to say good morning, to wait his turn, to bring his plate over to the sink when done eating, to not scream in church or any other public place, to put on his clothes and stop running down the hallway naked (after a certain age this ceases to be cute), to not open the door on his sister and brother when they’re in the bathroom or in their bedrooms. His siblings will tell you we still have work to do with the last one.
The skill of verbal communication has required very intense and intentional participation on our part as well. It still does. All this time I’ve been saying to my son, I love you. When he doesn’t respond I prompt him to say, I love you too mommy. And I’ve had to be happy with that prompted, non-original version of his expression of love for me. Until this morning.
We were waiting for his school bus and did our usual routine of talk and interaction. Suddenly he stopped himself and purposely, making eye contact with me, said, I love you. Can you even guess what happened to me at that moment in time? I never in a million years thought he would ever say that to me without being prompted to say it. I’ve never doubted he loves me but we all know when those words are said to us it’s like getting them tattooed in our hearts. So there! My son gave me a heart tattoo today and I’m so elated I could not keep it to myself.
Thank you for reading and sharing in on my joy!
3/7/14 journal entry, my son was 6 years old.