What is it REALLY like for a Mom to live with a child who has autism? If you haven’t lived with it, chances are you wouldn’t want to. I mean, it’s just a different ball of wax. But within this are wonderful things for all of us. Here’s what life is like looking through the lenses of Mama’s Eyes.
When our beautiful boy was born, Mama’s Eyes were wide open, filled with wonder. With endless possibilities, the world was his oyster. My baby can do anything he wants to do, be whatever he wants to be, right?
One morning in early 2003, those eyes dimmed quite a bit when we received the diagnosis: AUTISM. Mama’s Eyes watched the doctor’s mouth move while her body felt shell shocked. Too shocked and angry for tears, Mama’s Eyes framed a game face. “How do we fix this? NOW”! I remember thinking to myself, “one year of concentrated effort should fix this”. Mama’s Eyes scanned every book at Barnes and Noble, as well as articles online looking for the cure.
Trying to make her first step of acceptance, Mama attends an all day workshop. She tries to blend in and connect with others facing the same path. She goes to the afternoon workshop where the lecturer has written across the entire length of the chalkboard. Mama’s eyes read, “Autism is a lifelong disease”. “Oh my God – too much”, she thought”. Growing more and more agitated, confused and unsettled, Mama’s eyes looks for her purse and paperwork. She takes her belongings and runs all the way to the car. In the car, Mama’s eyes release tears. Those eyes dropped tears that would last for hours on end.
In time, Mama’s eyes see therapists in the house day after day week after week. They see clinic after clinic, biomedical treatment after treatment. Mama’s eyes see no magic cure. Nothing is making a tremendous difference. Mama’s eyes feel resentment looking at other typical children dialoguing with their Moms at the park, in stores. Mama’s eyes feel the sting of jealousy and envy that she can’t have a simple conversation with her son.
Weeks turn into months, months turn into years, and he’s still very autistic. Mama’s Eyes feel the inertia of slow-moving progress. Mama’s Eyes look at a PECS strip one day. She sees her son presenting her with a sentence that he constructs, “I want juice”. Mama’s Eyes find the juice in the fridge and pours him a sippy cup. Their eyes meet when the cup is handed over, and Mama’s eyes see a smile from the boy. She realizes that he really is very happy! He always has been! Mama is the unhappy one.
Mama’s Eyes look at the boy differently. The book she’s been reading, “What to Expect during the Toddler Years”, she moves to the Goodwill pile. No more reminders of failed milestones; time to take a different path.
Mama’s Eyes now look through eyes of love. Love is now her guide. Forgetting what others expect of her son, she and her husband decide to stop treating him like a child who cannot do, and decide to expect him to handle himself like any other child. Of course it would not be the same, but on the right track – the expectation that he is different, but capable.
Mama’s Eyes decided to change the vision. Instead of trying to transform a “disabled” boy into something that resembles normalcy, Mama’s Eyes see a capable boy who does things his way. After all, isn’t that the way all people are?
Mama’s Eyes’ new viewpoint changes things. By relaxing and focusing on strengths, Mama’s son feels the change in energy. He feels space to breathe, while feeling new expectations. Guess what? He rises to meet the expectations, slowly but surely, with a new found confidence and pride.
Mama’s Eyes see an even happier boy and family. Today, Mama’s Eyes see love instead of her anger. Hope instead of a “lifelong disease”, and joy instead of a child’s tantrums from forcing years of unwanted therapies upon him. Mama’s Eyes now see in retrospect that some therapy is good, but you must follow your child’s cues when enough is enough.
What does this mean for YOU? Use your perspective and lead with loving guidance. You must do what you feel is right for your child. His progress or lack thereof will let you know what works and what doesn’t. Somewhere locked inside of him, he senses your vibe – be it acceptance or rejection. Balance all the hard work with lots of play and laughter.
Every flower blooms differently and in its own time. Our flower is a late bloomer, but he continues to bloom – at his own pace. Instead of feeling dread over what the years ahead will bring, Mama’s eyes have the vision of her precious one continuing to bloom and grow. She knows that he will OK. She doesn’t know what that means, but she has that knowing.
As for today, Mama’s Eyes see her beautiful son dancing and singing, laughing and having the fun that only a free spirit would know. Mama’s Eyes see that he is experiencing days filled with fuller joy than most typical people! I am reminded that we should live in the present , that we are not promised tomorrow. Mama’s Eyes know that her autistic son lives his life to the fullest with joy and happiness. Honestly, this is MORE than I asked for, not less. Right now, Mama’s Eyes type these words with tears of love and joy, and gratefulness for the beautiful son she has.