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Hey, you. Yes, you there: mom to a kid on the spectrum. Well, you and I know they’re so much more than that. But sometimes those few words seem so all-consuming. So defining. So defeating.

I see you when you’re done. That was me earlier today. I had to send a picture of a broken windshield to my husband. I prefaced the picture with the text, “You’re going to be so mad.” And you know what? He saw the picture, read my text, and replied, “I love you. The windshield can be fixed. Don’t worry. Just come home.”

I think, unless you live on the island we do, the island full of autism moms and dads, it can be hard to understand. We’ve been told we just need to spank him. He’s too strong-willed. We just need to make him listen. And the thing is, I totally get it.

When I envisioned having kids one day, I pictured perfect children who fit in a beautiful box. Not one who can sometimes yell the same thing over and over and over, and I think my ears will permanently hear that one phrase. I didn’t foresee having a child who would hide under a doctor’s chair and refuse to come out or one who runs away or finds places to tuck away when he’s overwhelmed, dysregulated, or scared.

Having a 6-year-old who undresses in church because he found a seam that “hurts his skin”? Never entered my mind. He is the kid who always wears headphones and sits on the wall during whole group time of our first-grade life group. He has snapped my glasses in half and bitten my arm. Everyone knows my kid everywhere we go, or at least they know who he is even if they don’t actually know him.

And on days like today? Broken windshield days? That’s all you can see. Those few cracks feel like it’s you that is cracking down the middle. All because of an epic meltdown. One you know could have been avoided through a variety of different ways if only everyone else knew the Premack principle or had more practice with nonreactive behavior and words. So many what-ifs, so much frustration for you and for him. But now, all you see is the broken windshield. And you’re done.

But just like your kid is more than the three words “on the spectrum” so is today more than imperfect glass. Being a mom can be lonely. But being an autism mom feels like a whole other kind of life on an island. Feeling constantly judged but realizing that sometimes we are the harshest critics of ourselves. Having one day go so completely smoothly, only for the next five to feel like a never-ending trainwreck.

I see you there, mama. And I’m here on the island with you. Our little space might be filled with broken windshields and hiding under chairs, but it’s got oh, so much love. Because we know they’re more than an official diagnosis, their behaviors, their actions. And they know we will be there through it all. Because after every broken windshield, there are snuggles and laughter and smiles. Because no one knows your baby better than you.

Cheers to island life, friend. You’re killing it.

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So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Christa Barnet

I am married to my person and am a mom to five boys! I love teaching and am passionate about all things foster care, trauma-informed care, sensory awareness, and positive discipline. Coffee is my love language and reading is my hobby.

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