I have a secret to share with you.
Sometimes, I don’t always know how I feel about my son’s autism.
It seems there is a vast divide between two extremes of perspectives from parents of kids with disabilities. On the one side, there are parents who view the disability as something that makes an otherwise perfect child broken. They would desire for their child not to have any disability, if it were up to them, and struggle often against feelings of guilt for wishing their child were different. On the other side, there are parents who view their child’s disability as an integral part of their child, and that their child is perfect just the way they are. The disability doesn’t make them broken in any way. They recognize the struggle their child faces because of the disability, but would not wish it differently. Neither are wrong.
I see all kinds of articles (especially shared on Facebook) that showcase one of these two sides. When I read those articles, I often find agreement in them both, somewhere. I can empathize in some ways to both arguments. When I read the comments though, it seems there are still only two ways to view the issue. Some things I agree with on both sides, but not always fully. I don’t feel I can come down on one particular side and stand there firmly.
Because my feelings about autism change.
I can’t help but wonder if maybe I’m not the only one who feels differently about my son’s autism – especially on those REALLY hard days? Or on the really GREAT days? It seems sometimes that we’re only allowed to have one perspective on this, that we must choose, and that we must stay there forever.
But I don’t think that’s reality. For most people:
In reality, we think the best friends we have at age 12 will still be there at 72. Sometimes, things change.
In reality, we think we understand something… until we experience it from the opposite perspective. And our understandings change.
In reality, we think our families will look a certain way. But pictures change.
In reality, we think there are black and white ways to live. Until we experience gray. Suddenly, things change.
This seems to be a generally un-written rule in society, one that every person of an older age (however you want to define that) can attest to. The things we think and ways we live when we are very young often morph and change and look very different as an older adult. Things are not always so easy to understand. These rules fluctuate depending on many various factors. And we all seem to understand that it happens. So then, would it be too much to allow for people – parents – to feel different things and think differently about the same life circumstance they live with every day as they continue to raise their child(ren), all the while growing older and (hopefully) wiser?
Here’s another secret (well, maybe, depending on what you already know of me): I have clinical depression and severe anxiety. I have medication I take to help me cope with these things, and praise the Lord, it’s working. But I still have bad days on occasion. I get super irritated – regardless of depression – sometimes. And on these difficult days when my brain and my body aren’t too happy, sometimes I feel annoyed by some of the symptoms of autism. I feel impatient with my son. I even feel angry that this is how it is for us.
Then there are days and moments that are sweeter than honey. The days where God’s grace just pours down and floods our souls with joy. And sometimes I don’t even care about autism – in that it’s not something about which to be worried or frustrated. It doesn’t cause any major problems. There are no meltdowns. I see my son in the glorious image of His Creator and I am content and satisfied.
And there are a whole slew of other days where my emotions about his autism swing the pendulum to and fro and in between and sometimes even swings so hard left that it flies off the scale.
No, I don’t want my child and our family in general to have to deal with all the “stuff” that comes with having autism. All the hardships. All the struggles. All the meltdowns that suck every ounce of energy from every member of our family. But then again, without autism, he wouldn’t necessarily have his incredible memory abilities, or think in all the same ways that makes him so very unique and wonderful, or have a collection of Disney Cars and Lightning McQueens and Star Wards origami characters that could fill a swimming pool. I wouldn’t fully know the joy of hearing him speak my name after his first years wondering if he would ever speak. I wouldn’t appreciate all the little things in life that so many others take for granted.
I don’t always know how I feel about my son’s autism. But I DO always know exactly how I feel about him.
My son is beautiful.
He is smart.
He is funny.
He is compassionate.
He loves hard.
He loves with his whole being.
He is made in the image of God.
He is a son, a brother, a cousin, a grandson, a great-grandson, a friend, a teacher, a student, a runner, a dog-lover, a writer, a bike-rider, a shoe-tie-er, a bed-maker, a teammate, an encourager, a Jesus-follower, a deep thinker, a deep feeler, and as of August 29th, just one year away from being a teenager.
I don’t always know how I feel about Sam’s autism. But I know how I feel about Him. And I know how I feel about the future, and I am excited.
Not because he might learn how to drive.
Not because he might have a wife that he so desperately wants.
Not because his dream of being a filmmaker might come true.
Not because he might hold down a job at all.
Not because he’ll be successful in the way society views success.
Instead, it’s because redemption is coming. All the struggles, hardships, difficulties, doubt, worry, and the “dis” in disability will one day all be redeemed when God restores and renews all things. This is where my hope is found. Not in overcoming autism, but overcoming sin and all its shackles through Jesus Christ.
I want to share with you a video interview of myself talking about autism and my son. My husband had to do a project for his seminary class in interviewing someone, then editing the video. This was the final project. It’s our testimony of hope living with a son with autism. I’d love for you to watch and share!