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Autism Valentines Day: A Wish for my Fellow Autism Moms
I see you. Trying to put together the fanciest Valentines in the class (with candy! and stickers!) so your kid can practice their “put in” skills and the class will be excited to get the card. Volunteering (in normal times) to bake cupcakes for the class – so that there will be gluten-free, dairy-free ones that look exactly the same as everyone else’s. Going overboard with teacher gifts, because you know that the team that spends all day with your child are a mashup of saints and superheroes.
Your Second Heart
They say having a child is like having part of your heart walking around in the world – but what happens when your second heart bites, pinches, or hits? What happens your second heart is so shrouded in communication challenges that it pushes others away? What happens when your second heart is so plagued by sensory challenges that it is all but lost in a sea of dysregulation? What happens when your second heart shows such pure, unfettered emotions that you are reminded of the utter simplicity of humanity? What happens when your second heart shows you the way to the people in your life that will support you both?
Both our kids were born in February, so in our family, so our autism Valentines Day is flanked by two birthdays, making it one short month overflowing with celebration. Add in Lunar New Year – which is celebrated by many of our friends and team members – and February marks a fresh start even better than January 1.
Living in California, we are fortunate that we can catch a late-February day to have a birthday party that spills outside (not one that is forced outside by COVID restrictions). We invite the team. Our people. And go overboard with the food and favors and fun as a genuine, heartfelt way to thank the friends and family and educators and therapists who remain in our corner throughout the other eleven months of the year.
Seasons of Life
But as we celebrate our Groundhog Day child with an annual Mardi Gras feast and festivities, we also notice that time – and milestones – are very fluid in an autism family. In some ways Mr. Diggy is like an infant, routinely calmed by endlessly driving in circles around our neighborhood. In others, he is like a toddler, choosing finger foods and parallel play whenever possible. At times he is like a kindergartener, obsessed with his Minions, and making silly “jokes” on his AAD device. Mr. Diggy is tall for his age, but he still loves to wrestle with his dad and brother, and is often in constant motion – zigzagging through our house and yard like a human pinball.
As he approaches middle school, he is also safer in the water than almost anywhere else, and making progress on the ukulele – in these activities on par with, or even better than some of his classmates. And we have to remind ourselves that this February, he will be twelve and he will still be all of these things – and so much more.
So my wish for your autism Valentines Day is for you is to find joy in the everyday. To find inspiration in the mundane. And to appreciate the love your “other” heart holds for you – even if that love is not expressed in traditional ways. (Oh- and make sure to save yourself some of the dark chocolate caramels this year – those are the best!)