This guest post is by Jill Briesch, a tax accountant from Dallas, TX who has two sons with autism. She and her family are also the DFW Node ambassador family for the Autism BrainNet Initiative. This post is part of our Ties That Bind blog series that highlights the shared experiences that people in our autism community have had. Have a story you want to share? Email us your blog submission at AutismSpeaksBlog@gmail.com!
My dearest Alexander,
You are five today! Five! You’ve been counting down for months, and the big day is finally here. You love so many things these days, but nothing more than story time. So today son, let me tell you a story. A story with everything you love.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who fought battles every single day. He didn’t have a light saber or a laser gun to help him in these battles. He had his Mommy and Daddy and a big group of talented leaders and skilled sidekicks. A team.
Some days, the little boy didn’t win all of the day’s battles. Some days, he didn’t win a single one. He never gave up though. Neither did his team. Every morning, his Mommy and Daddy told him they believed in him. And every night after he was asleep, his Daddy crept into his room quietly to watch him sleep for a few minutes. Then it was his Mommy’s turn. She whispered things to him in his sleep. She told him how proud she was of him. She told him again and again how much she loved him. She told him that she believed he would understand someday, and that she would never give up hoping so. And she asked him to do something. She asked him to fight. To fight as hard as he possibly could and then to fight even harder.
The little boy did that. He did it every day. For years. He lived out a grueling daily schedule that most adults couldn’t handle, and still, he stayed the happiest little boy. He started winning the battles. The more he won, the better and faster he got. A little brother joined the family and loved the little boy fiercely, believing him to be perfect and wanting to be just like him. And yet the bar kept moving as the little boy grew. Every day continued to bring him a new challenge. The little boy began to notice that for many of his friends, everything was not so hard.
His Mommy and Daddy had also done some growing over the years. They had learned that while we often cannot choose what happens to us in life, we can choose what we do with our experiences. To survive is often the goal, but they wanted more than that for their family. They wanted to thrive. They came to believe that using their experiences to help others walking a similar journey was the key. All they asked of those they helped was that they would someday use their own experience to help others in turn. The little boy had inspired them in this, setting off a ripple effect of families helping one another by sharing their experiences and knowledge and paying it forward for others.
The Mommy kept whispering to the little boy every night as he slept. She told him that he and his brother were the best gifts she and his Daddy had ever received. She told him how much she wished she could take his place when things were hard for him. She prayed blessings upon the handful of children who were a friend to the little boy, for the little boy spoke of these friends all the time. The Mommy kept asking him to fight as hard as he knew how to do and then to fight yet harder. She told him he was a real life superhero with the potential to encourage many others.
She also spent many hours whispering of the need for change. Change in medical care, in legislation, in schools, in churches, in workplaces, and most of all, in perception. You see, the Mommy believed that the little boy had a very important job in his future. To someday be a voice for himself and others with autism. She promised him that as a family, they’d turn their experiences into a force for good and do their best to change the world.
And then one night it was the night before the little boy’s birthday. The Mommy and Daddy had planned a day full of surprises for him, for turning five years old only happens once in a lifetime. The little boy asked for a bedtime story. His Mommy read him a favorite, and then told him he would have a story all about himself for his birthday. The little boy beamed. He vowed to stay awake all night until his birthday arrived, but eventually he slept and the Mommy began to write his special story. A story with truly everything the little boy loved - superheroes, battles, victories, and an ending that’s but a beginning to the next chapter of an ongoing story.
Alexander, the little boy in this story is you, son. You are the superhero. You’ve fought and continue to fight battles beyond the wildest imagination of most. You’ve inspired those around you to be their best selves and you’ve seen astounding victories in your short years. Today, while a very important milestone, is just the opening act to the next chapter of your life. I wish I could promise away some of what I fear it will contain – prejudice, difficulty, injustice. But son, there is bound to be beauty and joy beyond description too. Life is a package deal that way. What I can promise is to be by your side every step of the way, believing in you and advocating for you to receive everything you need to soar.
It’s late at night now, Alexander, and Mommy has written you two stories. This one for some day in the future, and another shorter and more exciting version for bedtime tomorrow. In a few moments, I’ll sneak into your room to watch you sleep. I’ll marvel that there’s any room for you in your bed with all the stuffed animals you insist need to be there. I’ll reflect on how far you’ve come, how far we’ve all come, in the past few years. I’ll know you and your brother are the best things that ever happened to us. And I’ll whisper our special song…
“You are my Alexander, my only Alexander. I love you more than these words can say…”
HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY, son!