Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.
My son, Wyatt, is a loving 6-year-old boy. He also has autism.
He loves everything soft, treasures his toy cars and stuffed animals (“lovies” as he calls them), and gives the best hugs and kisses. He’s brave, strong, and smart.
These wonderful qualities are the things I want people to see in him — not his struggles.
Sure, our family’s autism journey hasn’t been easy. But Wyatt has also taught me more than I ever expected. He’s awoken so much within me that I feel transformed as a person.
Here’s a glimpse into the magic that is Wyatt and just three of the ways he changed me.
He’s magnified my compassion and empathy
I remember the day Wyatt was born. I was in labor for over 25 hours, and every minute of it was intense. I kept thinking that if his birth was this hard, the reward would be great.
The moment they placed Wyatt into my arms, I knew I was right and that it had all been worth it.
Since day one, I’ve been by his side for everything, from speech therapy and meltdowns to days at the park with his best friend, his little brother.
We have a special connection that I can’t put into words.
Since he struggles verbally, I’ve had to rely on my mother’s instincts to communicate with him. That’s only strengthened our bond.
I can tell by just a look how he’s feeling. And whatever he feels, I begin to feel it, too.
It’s almost like I’m carrying the emotions of two people at all times: mine and his.
But I happily do so, because my instinct that something doesn’t feel right is what got Wyatt’s autism diagnosed so young and what got him help early.
I’ll forever be thankful for our special connection and what it’s allowed me to see.
Wyatt helped teach me how to love. He’s truly enhanced my compassion and empathy.
It’d be easy to walk through this life only paying attention to yourself. But my path is now raising this incredible little boy, who just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else.
And my increased compassion doesn’t stop at Wyatt. I’m more understanding of situations and people beyond the walls of our home.
Now when we’re in the supermarket and I see a mom struggling, I give her the nod.
Because, by now, I can spot another autism parent, like we’re two people in the same car model passing each other on the road. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Except for us, it’s a nod and smile. Something to communicate that we aren’t completely failing at this parenting thing, and although our kiddos have struggles, we understand them and each other.
But what I wish more than anything is that we didn’t have to share something so difficult to show that kindness to one another.
I wish everyone was more compassionate and empathetic.
My son isn’t having a meltdown because he’s a bad kid. He’s having a meltdown because he’s having a hard time. But the shaming or embarrassed looks I get from some parents show me, and my child, that they don’t understand.
Our kids deserve a kinder world. But how will they ever learn to be kind when we’re not showing them how through our own actions?
That’s why I’ll forever be thankful that Wyatt awoke this in me.
Image via Kendall Rayburn
He’s helped me build mounds of patience
Oh, the patience you acquire when parenting a kiddo with autism.
It’s not a given. But without patience, you’re going to have a very difficult time.
It’s amazing to look back at where our journey began, when Wyatt couldn’t say a single word — and compare it to where we’ve arrived now.
Every step forward he’s taken was earned. He worked hard, and heck, so did we.
Helping him grow into the little boy he is now required patience and understanding. While they were traits I definitely had before I became Wyatt’s mom, they’ve grown so much since.
Because when you’re responsible for aiding and supporting your child, you do it — no matter what it takes. No matter how many times you have to make them request an item to increase their use of language. No matter how many sensory toys you have to test before you find one they like.
Whatever it is, you do it. And you do it with mounds of patience. The more you see that your patience is paying off, the more you use it.
I don’t know that this is something I would’ve learned without my sweet Wyatt.
Because Wyatt was my crash course in patience, fueled by love. And there really is no greater motivator than to be the parent your child needs and deserves.
Image by Kendall Rayburn
He’s shown me how to be brave
I’ve always been self-conscious, insecure, and — dare I say it — anxiety-ridden.
But seeing my son fight and overcome his challenges every day has showed me that I too can become brave, just like him.
Wyatt is constantly doing things that he’s afraid to do.
He participated in the school talent show and science fair — big deals to any kid, because they require you to step out of your comfort zone and share a little piece of yourself with others.
He did those things with ease. Because, man, is he smart, and man, is he brave.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a conference in front of a lot of people. A part of me felt like I wasn’t good enough to be on that stage in the first place. I came this close to turning it down.
But I didn’t, because I want to show my son that he can keep doing anything he puts his mind to, even if it’s scary.
He makes me want to be brave. He shows me that I can be.
When I came home from speaking at that conference and showed him the photos of me on stage, I could see it in his face that he was proud.
I’m incredibly lucky to have such a special little dude to show and teach me things I’d never learn otherwise.
I wish everyone could spend time with Wyatt just to truly see how special he is and learn some of the things he’s taught me.
What if there was more of a dialogue behind parenting a child with autism, and it was read, understood, and accepted? Imagine the kind of world we’d be building for kids like Wyatt.
I’m sure there’s so much more we’re going to learn from each other in the years to come. I honestly can’t wait.