He’s almost asleep, and his little voice pipes up in the semi-dark,
L: “Are you sad that I’m turning five soon?”
B: “A little bit, but I’m proud of the big boy you’re becoming”
L: “I’ll always be your baby. Like when I was asleep inside you.
I’ll always be your son.
I’ll be your friend.
I’ll be all of those things all the time.
I love you.
I love you to the moon and back. No! to the outside of outer space,
Because I love you the most.
And he puts his hand firmly on my forehead as I’ve done to him so many times.
He leans in for a kiss. And soon after he falls asleep.
Tonight, just before this most exquisite goodnight, I learned an Autism support service in Australia is sending people a card in the mail that reads,
“Sierra used to be a huge handful. She still is. After all, she still has Autism. But she is different to the difficult 3 year old she was just a few years ago. Sierra was lucky enough to receive two years of early intervention with A*****. A little digging and we find Sierra’s story on their website, which tells us about “two years of A*****’s centre-based group therapy program and individual home-based support”, as well as a girl who has a love for dance.
“These days, Sierra is a different child.”
“Her social skills are good now. She says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and looks people in the eye.”
And I think of my boy,
Whose social skills are outrageously ‘poor’ by measures we expect of Anglo-neurotypical children –
Eye contact and please,
But who can assertively ask a shopkeeper to turn their music down, bring his siblings their favourite toys when they’re sad, and say the sweetest things his mama has ever heard, like “I love you to the outside of outer space”.
A boy who has not spent the last year fitting in, or attending programs, or doing hours and hours of therapy. Who has spent the year jumping on the trampoline and going to playgrounds, and making books and films, and spending whole days with his family who love him.
It’s almost twelve months since we decided to stop pushing my son to fit in,
Pulled him out of kindergarten and any activities that involved large groups of children.
Started to focus on learning together how to meet his needs for downtime, how to be assertive about defending and meeting his sensory needs, and moving his body and stimming as he wants. Gave him autonomy over his body, freedom to grow his hair long, and wear what he wants.
We learned about autistic culture and disability culture;
Started practising Autistic pride.
I stopped working so we could figure this out together. We’ve moved mountains to create a life that is different to others, but right for us.
This past year, I’ve often felt uncertain and unsupported. It’s hard taking the path less travelled.
On the eve of my son’s fifth birthday, I think of Sierra and all the other children who are spending their days trying so hard with their please,
Thank yous and eye contact.
And I feel ever so grateful that we stopped with that,
and started a year of listening and love… to the outside of outer space, and back… ❤