A huge thanks to the folks at Healthline for sponsoring today’s post.
My son Wyatt is 6, and he has Autism. In just six short years he’s taught me so much, more than I ever would have expected. He is brave, strong, and smart. He loves everything soft, treasures his toy cars and stuffed animals (“lovies” as he calls them), and gives the best hugs and kisses, ever. When people see him, THESE are the things I want them to see – not his struggles, but the real and truly wonderful person that he is.
Like I said before, he has taught me so much. He’s awoken so much within me, and I wanted to give you a glimpse into the magic that is Wyatt, and how he’s changed me.
Three Things my Child with Autism Awoke in Me
Compassion / Empathy
I remember the day Wyatt was born, it was an over 25 hour labor, and every minute of it was intense. I kept thinking that if the labor was this hard, imagine how great the reward would be. The moment they placed Wyatt into my arms, I knew I was right, and that it had all been worth it. Since day one, I’ve been by his side – and everything he’s been through, I have been through right beside him. We’ve got a special kind of connection that I can’t put into words. Since he struggled verbally I had to rely on my mothers instincts to communicate with him, I can tell by just a look how he’s feeling. And whatever he feels, I begin to feel it too. It’s like carrying the emotions of two people at all times, mine and his. But I’ll happily carry whatever he needs, because the feeling of knowing “something is off” is what got Wyatt diagnosed so early, it’s what got him help early, and I’ll forever be thankful for our special connection and what it’s allowed me to see.
Wyatt helped teach me how to love, and he’s truly enhanced my compassion and empathy. It’d be easy to walk through this life only paying attention to yourself, but my path, my journey – is raising this incredible little boy who just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else. And the empathy and compassion doesn’t stop at Wyatt, it’s branched out and reached further than I’d ever thought it’d go. Now when we’re in the supermarket and I see a mom struggling, I give her the nod.
Because, by now I can spot out another Autism parent like we’re two people in a Jeep passing each other – you know how they have the special Jeep wave? It’s kinda like that. Except for us it’s a nod and smile. Something to communicate that we aren’t completely failing at this parenting thing and although our kiddos have struggles, we understand. But what I wish more than anything is that we didn’t have to share something so hard to show that kindness to one another. I wish EVERYONE was more compassionate and empathetic. My son isn’t having a melt-down because he’s a bad kid. He’s having a melt-down because he’s having a hard time.
Our kids deserve a kinder world, but how will they ever learn how to be kind when we’re not showing them ourselves through our own actions? And this is why I’ll be forever thankful that Wyatt awoke this in me. He stirred something up that I didn’t even know was there – and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to spread that empathy and compassion further than the walls of our home.
Oh, the patience you acquire when parenting a kiddo with Autism. Without patience, you’re going to fail. It’s amazing to look back at where our journey began, when Wyatt couldn’t say a single word – and compare it to where we’ve arrived now. But every little stepping stone he delicately walked on, was earned. He worked hard, and heck, so did we. And all of that required patience and understanding, traits that I definitely had, but traits that have grown so much since Wyatt. Because when you’re responsible for aiding and supporting your child, you do it – no matter what it takes – no matter how many times you have to make them request an item to increase their use of language. Whatever it is, you do it. And you do it with mounds of patience. And the more you see that your patience is paying off, the more you use it.
I don’t know that this is something I would have learned without my sweet Wyatt. Or, if I did learn it, it would have taken a lot longer. Because Wyatt was my crash-course fueled by love, and there really is no greater motivator than that to be a better parent and to be the parent your child needs and deserves.
I’ve always been self-conscious, insecure, and dare I say it – anxiety-ridden. But seeing my son fight and overcome every day has showed me that I too can become brave, just like him. It’s like reading inspirational quotes on repeat, because he’s constantly doing things that he’s afraid to do. The school talent show, the science fair, big things to any kid – things that require you to step out of your comfort zone and share a little piece of yourself for others to see. He did those things, with ease. Because, man is he smart, and man is he BRAVE.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to speak at a conference, in front of a lot of people – and a part of me felt like I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be on that stage in the first place, and came *this* close to turning it down. But I didn’t – because I want to show my son that he can keep doing anything he puts his mind to, even if it’s scary. He makes me want to be brave, he shows me that I can.
I wish everyone could spend time with Wyatt, just to truly see how special he is. I wish everyone could learn the things that I’ve learned from him – and I guess that’s why I write about it on my blog. I guess that a part of me thinks the more things I throw out there, the more that will stick. I mean just think about it, what if there was more of a dialogue behind parenting a child with Autism. And what if this dialogue was read, understood, accepted. Imagine the kind of world we’d be building for kids like Wyatt. Imagine how truly wonderful that would be.