Sometimes I don't remember my life before parenthood. Or my life before special needs. I have to remind myself I'm only five years in. I know I was the same before, at least I think I was. But also so incredibly different. I don't know how the two can coexist, but it's true. I think adversity in life enhances qualities that were already there.
Most days, I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm willing to figure it out as I go along. Each new stage brings with it different challenges, different lessons, different things I realize I know NOTHING about. But this is my journey and I am lucky to learn it and live it.
Every so often, I am shocked with the truth of the world. A truth of an "us versus them" mentality. A truth I want to change. My boys are not them. THERE IS NO THEM. There is only us. The other day this truth was brought to my attention in an interaction concerning Grey...with an adult. A thinking I may have expected or felt better prepared to address if coming from a child. And my soul was bruised. My husband Michael travels for work each week, and I was alone. Soon after a babysitter got to our house that evening, I went into my car and I cried. I sat in my driveway crying. The tears fell like a thunderstorm and wouldn't stop. I felt helpless. I wanted to do something, anything. So I wrote the following and shared it on our Facebook page.
This is my son Greyson. By most people's standards he is not an easy kid. Grey has autism. He does not always follow directions the first time you ask, or even on the tenth. He will challenge you. He's stubborn, so you really have to think on your toes to out-stubborn or teach him, but it can be done. And when you are able to reach him and connect, it feels like the warm golden sunshine is shining just for you.
Grey does not sit quietly or nicely. He makes ticking and humming noises that sound funny to people who are not used to them. He may bump into you mistakenly. He's not always aware of what his body is doing. He won't play games with you or take an interest in what you are doing- (unless of course this is Lightning McQueen reading this). And lately Grey yells. A lot. A loud, disarming kind of yell. A yell that fills me with the same kind of anger you might feel after you stub your toe. I imagine if I had autism and could not speak- but desperately wanted to - I would probably yell too. A lot. We are working so hard to give him the tools to express himself in ways more socially acceptable, so he can feel less frustrated. Life isn't easy for him.
All parents want their children to be loved and accepted. But when you have a child with special needs, there is also a burning fear that they won't be. There will be times you see this happen first hand and you can feel it crush your lungs and the shiniest parts of your soul.
We all say we love and accept people who are different. And I think we mean it. It's so easy to love people in words, but so much harder to do so in action. Because there's usually an unspoken parenthesis after saying "I love and accept all people." A parenthesis that says- as long as I am not disrupted or inconvenienced. As long as you follow my same morale compass. As long as you don't look different. As long as I don't have to invite you to my birthday party. As long as I do not have to hire you. As long as I don't have to sit next to you. As long as I understand why you do what you do. As long as you do not make me feel uncomfortable.
But as a Momma, these parenthesis turn my heart inside out. I wish so desperately that God had made ME different instead of Grey. That God had granted him my voice. In the darkness of night I wake up and pray for a world that will genuinely include my son in this one life he's been given. It's not his fault that he is the one that is different. I wish making the world a more accepting place was like writing a term paper - and I could stay up all night and do whatever it takes to make that happen.
But instead, here I sit here with swollen, sobbing eyes doing the only thing I can do. Share my heart and my words to give you just a glimpse. And beg you to love different in action, not just in words. Grey's different has made me into a better person than I ever could have been on my own. You may just find yourself learning huge and beautiful things about the world by letting a little different into your life too.
It took me a couple of days to feel right again. I had to do something I am quite awful at- I had to feel my bad feelings. It felt like a feelings flu. I couldn't side step or silver line them, I couldn't ignore them. I couldn't look on the bright side, or understand the underlying lesson. I simply had to feel them and ache. That was the only way to move forward.
My message was shared over 500 times and reached almost 130,000 people. I am so grateful to all of you for your love, your comments, and your help in sharing the message that there is no US versus THEM. Together I believe we can change the world.
Sometimes pain slowly molds its way into knowledge and beauty. You just have to be wiling to wait.