May 8, 2011
Mother’s Day Dream
Today commemorates Mother’s Day, a holy holiday in our home which I’m certain your father will attend to with the proper reverence. There will be separate cards from each of my boys, lovingly etched pictures to accompany the Hallmark words, perhaps a carefully chosen gift or two to further deepen the significance of the day. A meal will be prepared to celebrate my own mother as well, and three generations will gratefully sit together under one roof to consume it. These two events will bracket the day, with the hours in between comprising, in the end, just an ordinary Sunday. All the mothers in this particular hierarchy of parenthood will feel thanked, appreciated, loved.
And yet, despite the fact that it’s “my” day, I feel I should be the one thanking you and your brother.
I’m writing this letter to you now, an act I intend to repeat over the years to come for the two of you, in the hopes that I can convey to you how much gratitude I feel for the gifts bestowed upon me by your births. Your older brother of course began this motherhood obstacle course for me eight years ago, he of the intense gaze and that elusive laugh that I so coveted and sought after in the early days of his life. He slowly shattered all my expectations of what comprises the act of parenting, as I eventually realized his colic was more than just a transient state of being, his tantrums and aversions to the typical world a semi-permanent, not temporary fixture.
Through acting as his primary therapist for well over a year I discovered a depth to my love for him I didn’t know I had, formed a resolution to surmount even our worst struggles together. Watching him strive daily to resist the siren song of perseveration, and instead attempt both to communicate and forge connections with those in the world around him who have his best interests at heart, has inspired me to the depths of my often tired soul. He has taught me the true meaning of courage, your big brother. I hope, as you continue to grow and conquer your own battles, that you will recognize his indomitable will and draw from it, adopt it for your own use.
I am confident you will.
Know that I am proud of you as well, my second son. I feel ferocious pride in the way, even at the tender age of four, you now include your brother in every aspect of your day, sharing a sing-song salutation as you greet him each morning, a kiss and heartfelt hug for him at the close of each day. Although I never expect the sole responsibility of his care to fall entirely upon your shoulders, I am certain you will continue to champion him, check in on him, love him to the fullest.
I am also so proud of how you’ve incorporated your unique abilities into your own life, transitioned from fear of the world around you to an unquenchable thirst for new activities and adventures. The tenacious way in which you regained your speech, re-connected to those you loved, and resumed acquiring those precious markers of what the universe deems typical development, has left me awed, and grateful. Your progress has been enough to reignite my desire to once again delve within the sanctity of faith.
I’ve come a long way on my motherhood journey, cycling from dread to rage, and finally to relief, as both of you were diagnosed. I found having the “letters” to apply to your differences was actually a liberation of sorts, a label that allowed me to slide more quickly into acceptance from grief. Hearing the word “autism” when applied to the two of you was devastating, yet simultaneously a profound clarification as well. For me, ultimately, it was a call to action.
I’ll be scribing these missives periodically to both of you, sweet sons, but for today, I direct my correspondence to you dear Zach. I’m quite certain both of you will test me in wholly different ways in the coming years, your brother as he enters adolescence and its accompanying angst, and ultimately reaches manhood. I will strive to continue to model patience (when possible), dispense constructive discipline, and try to cloak all of my own “behaviors” in unwavering love.
As for you, my clever, inquisitive one, I imagine our bond may be pushed to the limits during the last third of your childhood, as you embark upon your slow ascent to adult life and leave your childhood behind. I imagine you’ll have questions as to why your version of autism rendered you fully able to engage with the world at large, when you brother’s type did not. Perhaps I will have to guide your through your own cycles of sadness and rage, much as I did myself years ago. I hope that I possess the prowess to lead you to understand, or at least accept it all, at the end of your contemplations.
It is my hope that ultimately you will take comfort from my future litany of letters, will draw from my words the measure of my commitment to you and your brother, a love I am certain will transcend death. I imagine you will know that I am sorry for the sometime sadness autism brought to your lives, but am confident the struggles you faced because of it ceded you great strength. I wish that you will regard me as guide, sanctuary, and friend. I trust that you will one day understand that I loved you with every fiber of my being, that the tragic, irritating, and at times even comic aspects of having both my children on the autism spectrum only served to make me a more loving mother, and ultimately, a better person.
Last, as I close this note to you, I thank you and your brother for enriching my life and stretching me in ways I didn’t know I could endure. You remain my little loves, and always, Zach and Justin, my most important life’s work.
I love you both.