Becoming a parent for the second time around was supposed to be the easiest thing in the world. We were already parents to our first son; to welcome a second baby boy meant our family would finally be complete. We were so grateful for our blessings but little did we know just what would lie ahead for us.
We welcomed our second son into the world on a cold winter’s morning, all eight pounds of him. We couldn’t have been happier. As the days went by, our little bundle grew into a handsome little guy reaching every milestone a baby was supposed to, but yet something felt off. At about 21 months he still hadn’t spoken one little phrase or word, and his interest in playing with other kids just wasn’t there. The little guy preferred playing solely on his own. As his mama, that was perfectly all right with me.
As his second birthday came and went we were still hopeful he would utter his first word, but that first word never came and his capacity to play with other kids had become nonexistent. He seemed to prefer being with Mama and Dada or simply on his own. Many people had started noticing our little boy’s so-called “shortcomings” and were very quick to point it out, yet he was still perfect to us. We knew something had to be done and scheduled an appointment with a specialist. We were scared for the outcome, but in our hearts the doctors just confirmed what we already knew. Our precious boy was diagnosed with autism. We were more relieved than shocked because now after all the worrying we could finally go on with our lives and give our boy the life he deserved. He was different, yes, but just how different we were still to find out.
Close family and friends didn’t fully understand just what autism and our son being different meant. To them he was the weird child who needed a bit more discipline. But the road to helping our boy was our cross to bear and ours alone. We soon learned that being a young married couple with an autistic son meant staying home more than usual because that way our boy could be himself in his own space. We learned that you could wait 6 years to hear the words “mommy and daddy,” and when you finally heard a sound that sounded anything like mommy or daddy, it could possibly be one of the best moments of your life. You know the struggle of trying to get a boy to bed at a decent hour but still have to be awake at 2am to have a laugh about little things you’d normally take for granted. Teaching your boy to use the bathroom takes a lot longer, and when he finally does, you do a happy dance with tears in your eyes because you know that every little milestone is an achievement. You find that a quiet period of your boy being in a different room of the house could only mean trouble, and when you finally do check up on him, your kitchen has been redecorated with a variety of sauces and your kitchen floor is covered in mayonnaise.
And sadder still you come to realize who has been on this journey with you and that sometimes family aren’t who you thought they were. You struggle to find a babysitter because everyone’s always unavailable. You find days where frustration gets to you and sometimes you just want to be alone and there are days where you’re scared of getting out of bed. You cry for the life you wanted, but yet you wouldn’t trade the life you have for anything. If someone would have shown me the future a few years ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be able to raise a special needs child. But now that I’m here with him through his journey of discovery and the world, everything all makes sense. To see the world through a child’s eyes, especially his, is the greatest gift and lesson I could ever have been given.
Today he’s all of 6 years old and the light of our lives. He speaks nearly full sentences and has a fascinating love for music. He’s stubborn like me sometimes and a total jokester like his father. His first word spoken out of total frustration was “daddy” because we refused to give him another chocolate after he’d already had one. His vocabulary grows day by day, and although he’s not much of a social butterfly he loves the outdoors and has a fondness for reading and writing. He’s a mama’s boy and loves being the center of attention. He’s filled our lives with a light unlike any other, and I believe to truly understand him we first had to experience this journey with him. We are grateful for every milestone he reaches, and we celebrate his little victories day by day.
No one could have made us understand the journey of autism more than this precious boy has. No doctor could have explained the journey ahead better than he did. Taking us along as his parents on his discovery of life is the biggest adventure we could ever have embarked on. There’s still much to be discovered along the way, but with this boy holding our hands and leading us, we’ll always be ready to take the road wherever it may lead.