I am fairly comfortable saying that being a parent to my daughter is incredibly humbling. At times, it is the sheer stamina required even when I’m already spent. There are tough times for sure. Yet, the most humbling moments aren’t the hardest ones. The moments that truly leave me breathless are the moments that remind me of what I see as the ultimate gift of Autism, being present in the moment. Here are just a few lessons that my daughter forever reminds me of, often with the patience of a school teacher.
- Dance: Often, freely, fully and wherever you are
- Learn eagerly: Be a student of nature and embrace every adventure
- Hug and kiss often: It is the cure for every hard day and reinforces every magical moment. There is no wrong time for a hug or a kiss. If it disarms my soapbox (which I’m pretty sure is her plan) so be it.
- Never go to bed without cuddles: Like hugs and kisses, there is no such thing as goodnight without cuddle time. “It’s Mommy’s turn,” “Noah, huggie-hug!” The last acts before bed are with love and gratitude.
- You have one body, live in it: I choke over this every time, as it’s a particularly tough one for me. Women are particularly socialized to live outside of our bodies, as well as dissatisfied with them. Yet, my daughter challenges me. If she catches me distracted, she’ll stop me, hold my face, “eyes to eyes.” She’ll move her hands to my lips, “corners up, smile. Now look at me.” She draws me in every time, and I vow not to look away first. “Good, now hug.” She’ll touch my skin, caress my hair, and just as eagerly lives in relationship to her own body. Her little body and what it can do bring her such joy and wonder. I aspire to someday feel that way about my own.
- Let sand, water and movement soothe you
- Forgive Easily
- Spend as much time outside as you can
- Accept others for who they are: My little girl has no enemies, and she harbors no leftovers. Every moment is fresh, new and magical. Somehow, every day when asked, she’s “had a good day.” A good day doesn’t mean without hiccups. A good day is one we accept with wonder.
- This moment is the only one that is real, be in it: For my daughter, Autism means that there is no real past, and no real future. Today is all that is real to her. While she’s has memories, and can plan ahead some, her feelings come with the present moment. They are fast and furious at times, yet they pass as the moment does. They are also profound and gentle, loving and playful, silly and amazing. Her anxiety is also in the moment, soothed with a squeeze, some “eyes to eyes” connection, a few deep breaths. She exists now. So do we, now that we mention it (subtle, I know).
- Sink in
When our little girl was first diagnosed, we felt the anger, sadness and loss that is so common for parents of kids with special needs. Once we grieved the loss of our plans and wishes for her, we opened up the space needed to simply get to know her. We love her, absolutely. We also just dig her, exactly as she is. She’s such a gift. I have long accepted that my children are among my greatest teachers. I hope I am fortunate enough to teach them as much as they continue to teach me.