Discovering My Child is Autistic.
My struggle to come to terms with the shocking diagnosis that my son is autistic.
The day after I was told that my child was autistic, I walked through the halls of the school I’m currently employed in (prior to COVID), crowds of students mulling around, teachers in their classrooms getting ready to start their day, people greeting me “good morning.”
People were going about their day as if everything was totally normal, just like any other day. But for me, everything was covered in a distant fog. Nothing really registered. Everything was a blur.
And there was just one word I held tightly with every step.
The night before had been parent teacher conferences.
Our meeting was supposed to be about ADD, what we could do to help our child, and possibly explore if he had ADHD.
We never imagined the teacher offering a whole new diagnosis.
There we were sitting in little chairs in our child’s classroom as our son’s teacher went on and on with examples of how our child is different. How something is not quite right about his manner, how his behaviors stand out and his social isolation is evident.
This was not the next chapter I was imagining starting.
Suddenly, I was in a whole new book. An entirely new story was beginning to unfold.
Up until now, I could tell the story of the ups and the downs, the routine, the daily grind. Now, I stumbled for details on any other aspect of existence except this one word.
Everything paled before the diagnosis.
I wished someone could have prepared me for that meeting, saying, Wait! The label is just there for clarification purposes and to help him! But leave it at school! Don’t take it home! At home, he’s just your kid!
Without knowing what I was doing, I pasted that word right onto my son as though I was tattooing him with it permanently.
But instead, without knowing what I was doing, I pasted that word right onto my son as though I was tattooing him with it permanently. Now all of his little quirks that until then I embraced bothered me. Now all of the little behaviors became an issue. Because, of course, they all seemed to stem from the same label: autistic.
It was that way for an unfortunate while. But with time, slowly but surely, I was able to revert to seeing my child rather than a label. I was able to see my son again.
Looking back months later, I can watch myself on a rollercoaster ride of Momhood. How one day my patience was endless, while the next I was snappy and cold. I can see myself continuing to appreciate the goodness in my child and all his amazing beautiful qualities, and then looking at him after he impulsively grabbed his sibling’s apple sauce and thinking “What is wrong with you?”
I want so badly to be consistently loving and patient, for him especially. I want every moment with him to be one where he understands that I love him totally and completely, unconditionally and without limit. I want him to know that I get him and where he is coming from, and he can make a mistake and still be okay.
I want to have a consistent, healthy evening routine with him. Where every night his expectations are clear and he is bombarded with positivity leading to a relaxed, peaceful night’s sleep.
Sometimes I know I am depleted and missed out on a recharge before it was too late. Others times I just missed an opportunity to work on my character, slow down, and give the kid a break.
And often I worry what might become of my child. Could he have a good night’s sleep after the less-than-relaxed bedtime? Will he be able to develop a positive self-esteem after receiving punishments that were harsher than necessary?
In my moments of pain and regret, in my realization of the disconnect between me and my most ideal self, an important realization came to me.
In Jewish classic Duties of the Heart, in the section on Trust, Rabbi Bachaye enlightens us with the knowledge that no man can help or hurt another without it being ordained by God. If that’s true, then my son is also taken care of by God alone.
And so, I was able to let go of the fears and exhale the worries of what would be. There was only one thing of my concern, and that was my character. How I was treating my child, and how I could work on my own patience, loving, and understanding. I could regret and repent the pain I inflicted on my child. I could regret and repent the less-than-ideal character traits.
But the future? What would become of him? How this could affect him?
That's in God’s domain.
First and foremost, I do mine.
I feel remorse about how I unnecessarily exerted control over my precious child, how I perhaps hurt him in some way, and how I didn’t plan ahead that day in a way that set him up for success. I feel my tears washing away some of the pain. As I take stock for what I have done, I feel the responsibility to also take action to give my child a better future.
And then I turn to God in prayer and I beg:
Dear God, help me embrace my child with his unique challenges to the best that I can.
Dear God, help me to be the best mom I could be. Help me to embrace my child with his unique challenges to the best that I can. Please, God, help me be consistent. Help me take care of myself before I collapse and lose it. Help me take a deep breath in a moment of trial and act in the most kind, patient, empathetic, and unconditionally loving way.
Dear God, let me continue to improve myself as an individual, grow in marital harmony, and flourish in parenthood. Let my child get the best possible upbringing he can get, and, in turn, let him look up and, with a truly happy and healthy home, strive to always become the greatest person that he can be.
Most of all God, let me trust you. The more I work and grow on my trust in You, the more I remember that it is Your help that I need the most. You can give me the strength to keep going when I feel like I cannot. You can help me give my all to the whole of my child. Let me remember to turn to You in prayer before I lose the moment. Help me to ask for Your help in making that choice that I will feel good about after.
And please God, protect my child! No matter what, with all of my human failings, please God, protect my precious child.