What I wish for my son with autism
February 6, 2017
This blog post was written by Kathy Hooven and her son, Ryan, who has autism. You can read more about Kathy and her family on her blog, "The AWEnesty of Autism."
A wave of nostalgia swept over me as we drove past my 15 year old son’s former daycare on a cold, dreary January day. It seems like just yesterday I was dropping off my boys (and most of paycheck) to that glorious setting where they were cared for and loved, but, in reality, those days have disappeared as quickly as the snowflakes hitting my windshield. As I lingered at the stop sign deep in my melancholy, the building and the time it represented, left me wishing I could go back, if only for a moment.
I glanced over at my son, sitting next to me in the passenger seat staring out the window. The look on his face, although a face now more mature, wearing glasses and in desperate need of a shave, still looked the same. He looked deep in thought, almost concerned, as he stared out the car window and just like I did all those years ago when he was a toddler tucked safely in his car seat staring out the window of the back seat, I wished I knew what he was thinking.
I smiled as I pointed at his old daycare playground. “That’s where you use to play when you were little”, I reminded him. He looked in the direction of the playground, but, didn’t say a word. Then I recalled another wish I had in those early day. I wished every single day, as I approached that very same playground at pick up time, that just once I would not find him playing alone. I felt that same ache in my chest as I did back then.
Pushing that ache to the side, I snuck another peak at my boy, who still hadn’t responded, but, was staring out at the playground as if trying to remember when exactly he played there and with whom. It was a long lonely time ago…for me.
I had so many wishes back then, when I felt something was “wrong” with my son, but, had yet to see all that was “right”. In fact, there were times that I probably spent more time wishing than I did doing. As I watched the daycare, the playground and my son’s childhood slowly disappear in the distance, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I had no doubt the wishful face all those years ago looked younger and less wrinkled than it does today, but, the face staring back at me now is wiser, more educated, more aware and spends much less time wishing and much more time doing.
Ryan and I spent the rest of the ride, as we almost always do, in comfortable silence, so my brain had plenty of time to reflect on how my wishes have changed over the past ten years. And here are a few that popped into my head as we drove quietly along:
My wishes then:
For him to fit in.
For him to “be like everyone else”. (Most guilt-ridden wish. Ever. I'm sorry Ryan.)
For “it” not to be autism.
For him to eat more than one thing.
For him to never need a haircut, his teeth cleaned or a strep test.
For him to talk to me.
For him to know how very much I love him
For him to connect with me.
For him to connect with his brother.
For him to tell me about his day.
For him to say “I love you” just once after the fifty times a day I told him.
My wishes now:
For him to feel confident and comfortable wherever he is.
For him to be exactly who he is and NEVER be anyone other than that.
For people to understand autism does not define him.
For him to feel happy and loved.
For him to be accepted.
For him to find success, in his way, in his time.
For him to believe in himself as much as I do.
For others to take the time to see how fabulous he is.
For the world to be more accepting of different.
For me to know then what I know now.
For me to go back in time and realize that most of my wishes then, were just that, MY wishes, not Ryan's.
Some wishes don't come true. And for that I am so grateful. Because you see, most of those wishes I had for Ryan then, weren’t really for Ryan, they were for me. Ryan did show me his love, even though he may not have said it. Ryan was connecting with his brother, he just didn’t connect the way I expected him to. Ryan was eating the only food his body would allow, not trying to drive his mother crazy. And dental cleanings and strep tests really do suck.
It’s ok to wish, and I still do, but, you really do have to be careful what you wish for, but, most importantly WHO you are wishing for. Today, I make sure that the wishes I have for my son are HIS wishes because those are the only wishes that really matter...then and now.