What Wasn’t There

Today I took my daughter to the park across from my son’s school thirty minutes before we picked him up so she could play.

It just so happened that my son’s class was out on the playground and we could see him and his classmates.

I peeked over every so often trying to be careful that he didn’t see me. I watched him and his fellow autistic students play. Anyone else watching from my distance would just see children playing on the playground but I could see the differences from a far.

I saw so much beauty. These kids each took to the playground each in their own way. There was a delicate dance in the way they whirled around each other all within their own space. Ever so often meeting to engage and play together in a game of chase or on the same piece of equipment.

I smiled as one amazing para ran around with the children. Coordinating their interactions with one another. Making sure everyone was having a good time.

Then I watched as my son did something he often does; he was at one moment playing with another child and then suddenly walked away mid play. I don’t know why but I turned a little dark inside.

I let the beauty slip and could only think of what wasn’t there; Groups of children chatting, childish games being made up, competition and friendship being built or broken.

I suddenly yearned for normalcy. I imagined my son talking to another little boy or girl about Pokémon or superheros. I wished he could play with friends without help. I realized he didn’t really have anyone he called a friend. I wondered how he felt about that, and then felt the sting of the fact that I didn’t know because we don’t have much of any conversations.

Then the whistle blew, I snapped out of it and I grew angry at myself. I know it’s okay that my son is different. I love my son for who is so much more than I could explain, but in those moments I slip backward. Then I felt sick that I allowed my mind to go there because it feels like I am betraying my child when I do that.

I wanted to share this experience because this is where I am at in my journey as the parent to an autistic child.

I preach and practice all day the value of my son’s differences. I fight for him. I am so grateful for my son and everything he has taught me and the people around him. Nevertheless sometimes I fall back to the beginning; to the time before I knew the good and the acceptance of the new and only wanted what once thought was going to be.

I can’t apologize for it. It simply happens to me and that matters because it’s a process. I have to feel it in my own space. I have to acknowledge it because that is where progress lies.

If you are in a similar place I hope you can find that space for yourself too.

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