Michael likes to move. Michael likes traffic because it moves. Michael likes walking. This is why it really did not surprise me after I took a second to think about it, that walking on a busy boulevard near our home is what helps calm Michael and what is fun for him to do with me. I get the benefit of exercise, being out in the fresh air, and having an hour or more of time to talk and bond with my son which is becoming more challenging as my tween pulls away from other mother/son activities like park time. Ok, so it’s not my ideal venue of paradise, walking on busy boulevards where traffic runs rampant and noise is the order of the day, but this is what sets Michael’s soul on fire, so I make it my business to be there alongside him to show him how I want to understand him and bond with him.
And there we were on the weekend, on one of these long walks talking and then just quietly walking, when lo and behold, we were coming up to the place where he first went to daycare, the daycare he had been kicked out of due to his unusual behavior and inability to fit in. This wasn’t the first time we had walked past it. We had done this walk many times in the past. I had always pointed out to Michael that this was where he had first gone to school when he was very little. Though it had had a painful ending for me and him, he had bonded with two of his teachers and had asked about them when he was older and verbal. One of them had held him on her lap as he stroked her hair when he was distressed by the noise, the fast pace and other realities of daycare he had not been ready for at two and a half. I had told the positive things to him and then added that the long day was hard for him, and that was why we had ended up sending him to the adapted preschool where he had finally learned to talk, come out of his shell, and we had uncovered his autism and been able to bridge the gap he had with us and us with him.
For me, passing this school for years had been a painful memory though I had not shared this with Michael. I did not want to distress him. But I’ll never forget the stress and relief in that meeting with the director of the daycare who had firmly and gently told me that my son was a lovely boy, physically healthy, but that there were lots of other issues we needed to look at. He would need a full assessment at a hospital and then once we had recommendations for a speech and occupational therapist, they could look to giving him back his spot. For now, he could not continue attending the daycare. The next words she spoke stayed with me then and are still with me now. People will tell you there are worse cases than him. Hospitals, social services may turn you away. You need to fight for your son, fight with everything you have in you. She then shared with me how she had to fight for one of her two children who had physical health issues to receive services at the local hospital. She again repeated, be ready and willing to fight for him. You’re his top advocate.
Of course I took those words as law, and I have never stopped fighting for Michael. Though I always looked back on that conversation with both sadness and hope, whenever I passed the building where I had hoped Michael would blend in with the other kids, I would feel sadness, loss, and anger that things had not turned out differently. Then, there I was at that building with Michael last weekend. I looked at it. I looked at him. And I felt joy. Pure joy. I realized that was the first place that had had the courage to help me see my son for who he was, in all his beauty. They helped me fight the pediatrician for a referral for further testing. Then push for an adapted preschool. Then finally through that preschool find a Mom community, and one particular Mom, who gave me the name of a psychologist who finally gave Michael the diagnosis of autism which opened up doors for him and us. I celebrated though everyone around me mourned. Now it was just learning how best to support Michael’s learning and brain. Autism was not a bad thing. It was part of who Michael was, and it was up to me to understood this different way of seeing the world.
This was new for me though, this joy in seeing the place that had made me cry, the place that had made me finally face my son was different, and that I was different and would have to parent differently. I felt free. This place had helped me be free, Michael too. Michael is who he is because of all the experiences he has had as I am, as we all are. This is reason to celebrate and to remember that even so-called dark moments, can end up being our moments of greatest light and growth.
Exceptional Parents, do you have moments that you look back on and see as eye opening positive experiences even as they appeared negative? If not, look again. You may be surprised how with time, you can see how experiences can change you for the better, even negative ones, and how your body and mind look at things in a different way when you’ve had time to reflect. Let go. Release past hurt. Everything happens for a reason to lead you most of the time to a better tomorrow. Until next time.