I spent the first four years of my son’s life in a frantic state of hope. A hope that he would be “healed” like so many of the stories I had been incessantly devouring. Such as the story of the boy who spent his early childhood spinning disks on the floor–unable to connect with his mother sitting directly across from him–who later went on to be a successful CEO. Like the girl, full of quirks and disconnect, who went on to be the cheerleading captain of her high school. And like the boy who exhibited self-harming behavior, who went on to be a college alumnus.
This is what I wanted. After all, why not? I had grit, and my son deserved a normal life.
So we worked. And I dragged him around to every doctor who might have an answer—geneticists, gastroenterologists, DAN doctors, neurologists. We even dabbled in the not-so-traditional equestrian therapy, essential oils, detox foot pads, you name it.
We traveled to every corner of the heal autism atlas.
I was tired. And I’m sure if my son could have spoken to me he would have said the same. He had been poked and prodded. He had been subjected to a wild entourage of supplements and gadgets.
And eventually, we were financially broke because of it. This pursuit. To make my son different than he was. Was I crazy? Ungrateful? Or perhaps I had so much love for him I truly believed I was doing the right thing.
It was definitely some medley of the above.
And then a shift occurred. A break in the obsession. My daughter was born. Perfection in the way new life always is. Beauty and love unmatched by anything else in the world.
Her birth caused something to stir within me. Something to click.
I forsook hope for my son. And instead focused solely on the life we were currently existing in.
The moments. The happys, the sads, the triumphs, and the disappointments. Each event occurring solely on its own. There was no grand, long-term scheme. No story ending that involved a life without autism. We just were.
And life was magically happier this way.
My daughter’s birth aroused an awareness that lives within each of us. An awareness that is often buried by the society we live in. An acute recognition and respect for the divinity of every precious second. Seconds we never get back with each beat of the clock.
So instead of hope for the future, I loved my son as he was. Everything that might come afterward to improve his health and functional ability was just a bonus.
I also became nicer to myself. Ditching my inclined ability to berate myself for what I hadn’t done. For the genetic material I unwittingly imposed on him and any other reasons to dislike myself on account of my son’s autism.
We laughed more. I cried less. All because of a shift.
You see, the problem with hope is it is merely a dream.
Something we wish to come to pass. And while we may proactively engage with things that can help merge our hope with reality, ultimately, we have little say in the outcome.
What we can create is our idea of the moments we hold in real-time. The way we view our child, ourselves, our family. We get to design a reality in which we are grateful for the empathy we have gained through our experience. Our ability to see humanity more completely. Our journey makes us more perfectly human. The kind of human who elevates this world. Who is a listening ear with an open heart. Who carries wisdom with them through the eternity of their existence.
I remain receptive to finding things that may improve my son’s world. But this is not for the intent of hope or healing. It is so his experience is as good as it gets. So he can find comfort, peace, and joy in his daily function.
I carry with me the knowledge that my son is perfect. He is exactly as he is supposed to be.
Together, we move forward taking each day one at a time. We are hopeless. We are happy. We are free.
Originally published on Finding Cooper’s Voice