If I were writing a profile for an online dating service, I’d talk about how much I love to travel, go biking, spend time outside and go to baseball games. Thankfully, I am happily married (love you, Jon) with three awesome kids (Noah, Evan and Jessica). I know: everyone’s kids are awesome. But mine really are (except when they are fighting, asking too many questions, refusing to do homework, or begging for yet another toy from Target).
The real me (not that what I said above isn’t true; it’s just not the whole truth) has self-diagnosed ADD and can’t relax unless my house looks clean. Messy drawers, closets and cabinets are OK; out of sight, out of mind. In a previous life, I loved to cook. Now I just like to eat. Cooking stopped being fun when Evan was diagnosed with so many food allergies that he couldn’t eat 97 percent of what I served. Then Noah and Jessica decided they only like chicken nuggets, pasta, and pizza (strangely, they really do enjoy broccoli).
I like using parentheses. I hate rude people. My goal is to attend a baseball game at every Major League stadium; so far, I’ve been to 14. My laundry schedule is determined by when I need a clean pair of yoga pants, not by when my kids run out of socks or underwear.
I love Jelly Belly jelly beans and all gummy candy. I hate cleaning up vomit, and I am secretly grateful when my kid pukes at a store because workers there never make the parents clean it up.
My driver’s license says I’m in my 40s and while I have the wrinkles to prove it, I’m still waiting for the day when I wake up feeling like a responsible adult.
When I found out I was pregnant, one of my biggest fears was that I would have a child with autism. In college I did a photo essay on a non-verbal child with autism and I had no idea how to interact with him. Ever since then, autism scared me.
In October 2007, days before his second birthday, Evan, our middle child, was diagnosed with autism. In the years following, I felt scared, angry, tired and completely ill-prepared and inadequate to parent a child with special needs. At the same time, I was determined to give Evan every chance to be the best he could possibly be and not let his diagnosis define him or control our family.
I spent a long time grieving over Evan’s diagnosis before realizing I had two choices:
1) Keep the covers pulled over my head and have a perpetual pity party or
2) Work hard for and with Evan to give him every opportunity to live a happy and meaningful life.
I chose number two.
And while I still have an occasional pity party, I am forever grateful to Evan for all the lessons he continues to teach me. He is genuinely happy, and that makes me happy.
I have spent the last few years blogging about autism for other sites, including the Friendship Circle, The Huffington Post and The Mighty. I do this as a way of increasing autism awareness and as a way to reach out to other parents of kids with special needs, so that their journey feels a little less lonely.
I have found that humor, hope, a support system and candy are essential for any parent, but particularly a parent of a child with special needs. My hope is that this blog will provide most of these (just not the candy) to all the super-hero moms and dads raising exceptional kids.
I also will consider this blog a success if I can give parents of typically developing kids as idea of what autism looks and feels like, so that they better understand it and then pass along a sense of compassion and acceptance to their children.