As a parent, all I want is to make sure my children are healthy, safe and happy. Seems reasonable...not asking for much. I used to think it was so “green” of pregnant moms to have an entire plan of what their life will be like after they give birth. They will breast feed for 9 months, start pumping, go back to work after 4 months, and their life will continue as it was plus one. What us “moms” don’t prepare for is colic, ear infections, croup, reflux, allergies, trouble with breastfeeding, mastitis and, postpartum. Although it is good to have some thoughts of what our life will look like after the baby comes, we have no idea what lies ahead. Your baby may not latch on and you only breastfeed for a month, they have reflux and you try to maintain their weight, and the job you thought you were going back to has been put on the back burner. The thought of leaving your baby now, is unthinkable.
Your baby grows right before your eyes. The first smile melts your heart and then the giggles. Them looking at you when you say their name and making eye contact. The sitting up, crawling and walking, hitting all the milestones. You and your husband betting on what will be said first “mama” or “dada”... and it turns out to be “baba”. We as parents, cherish these moments and they are stored in our love tank. But what happens when your child doesn’t make eye contact with you. They smile and they giggle, they are happy. This beautiful baby is growing, they seem to be hitting all their milestones… and then you wait and you wait and you wait… and there is silence. There is no “mama” or “dada”, no “baba”, no “b”. Being a first time parent, you may think your baby is a late bloomer - but what if they aren’t… what if there is “something wrong.” This is the fear of all parents… the what if something is wrong. What if they aren’t getting enough milk, what if they aren’t crawling, what if they aren’t talking and all the other toddlers in mommy and me are. The what if’s carry on through our kids entire lives. Elementary School: What if they don’t have friends, what if they struggle with reading - are they dyslexic, what if they are being bullied, can’t spell, can’t sit still or make a complete sentence. What if’s in High School get a little more serious. What if they drink and drive, what if they are depressed, what if they won’t talk to you when they need to, what if they skip school or their grades are below average, what if they don’t make the track team or get asked to prom…. What if… I think this is why I don’t sleep at night.
My what if’s have been many and from an early age, with my middle son being diagnosed Autistic. Caden has surpassed any and all goals that have been set before him. We were lucky to intervene early and he has worked harder than I have ever worked. He has determination and drive and sometimes frustration, but he knows their is something greater at the end of the tunnel. He is working for the best prize ever - himself. He is working to be him, to be the true Caden, the one who thrives and is whitty and has a sly sense of humor - the Caden that he knows he is. His potential is endless and there is no stopping this kid.
What if he is not accepted, made fun of or looked at as less than. What if? At an early age, a friend of mine who has a son with Down Syndrome and I talked…. We discussed our kids and how we hated knowing they would be judged for the rest of their lives. It broke her heart that her son would always be seen for his disability. Every room he entered, park he played in or restaurant they ate at, he would be the “kid with downs.” I on the other hand wished that my son would have a red dot on him, telling people this kid was autistic. Of course neither of us want our kids to have a label. For me, it is extremely difficult to have a high functioning kid on the spectrum that is looked at as typical, but isn’t. Caden would do things in a play situation, like sitting at the end of a slide in a play structure - because he loved being smashed into. For the 3rd time over the loudspeaker I heard, “to the kid who is at the end of the slide, this is the last time we are telling you… “ I don’t want Caden to be treated differently, and we have raised him with the same expectations as our other kids, but a little understanding sometimes would be nice. Because Caden doesn’t have a red dot, people are unaware of his autism. I have to take the time to remedy the situation with a conversation on how I was sorry, but my child is autistic and he is not being rude or disrespectful by not listening, he is just in a “zone” right now. Having to explain my child's abilities and weaknesses everytime we are out in public can be exhausting. So, win or loose, red dot or not… our kids are our kids. The what if’s are the same, and the judgments will continue. We as parents can only do our best to expose them to the world so they can discover and find themselves. They are going to find that they are capable of doing anything, there may be obstacles along the way, but one thing I do know, is these kids are strong, courageous, determined, one of a kind warriors who are ready to take on the world.