I have always known what kind of mom I wanted to be.
The mom who has the best after-school snacks. The mom who’s always ready with a warm hug and a kind word. The mom who makes jokes that get the kids to roll their eyes but laugh hysterically when they repeat them to their friends.
I wanted to be a super involved mom—there for every activity, every field trip, every adventure.
We all have our motherhood labels, usually defined by our children’s current hobbies or seasons of life.
A PTA mom.
A scouting mom.
A soccer/lacrosse/baseball/hockey mom.
A dance/cheer/kick line/gymnastics mom.
And maybe someday I can be one or all of those things.
Maybe one day, I’ll be better known as the karate mom or the swim mom.
But first and foremost, I am now and will always be an autism mom.
My son is autistic and that defines most of who he is. Therefore, it defines most of who I am.
Much of my time is spent with teachers, therapists, social workers, and administrators.
Much of my time is spent reading progress reports, meeting goals, and attending meetings.
Much of my time is spent with doctors, nurses, specialists, and support staff who help our little boy live his best life.
He is being set up for success every step of the way. He is thriving more and more each day.
Most days, I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Quite often, I cry over how far we still have to go.
We get a lot of help from neighbors and friends and family.
We get a lot of help from the school, the principal, the aides, the district, and his amazing teachers.
We get a lot of help from our online community of autism parents who get it in a way that only living through this journey can prepare you for.
Autism is not a path you choose.
It’s a path laid out before you with no clear map. The only way to navigate it is one step at a time.
Of course, my son has a million amazing things about him—as all kids do!
To know him is to love his sweet personality, his kind nature, his forgiving heart.
To know him is to laugh hysterically when he says something well beyond his wizened five years of age.
To know him is to have your jaw on the floor when he discusses his favorite artists or classical composers or foreign languages in the way you would never expect from someone only four feet tall.
But also . . .
To know him is to accept that there may be lots of screaming, hitting, crying, wailing, and falling on the floor because either his body or his feelings are hurt. He takes everything personally, takes everything literally, and holds a grudge like a grumpy old fisherman.
To know him is to find him hilarious and then have to hide it because he hates feeling like he’s being laughed at.
To know him is to try to keep current on impressionist paintings on display at the Met or the National Gallery or the Guggenheim, to be able to name concertos by Mozart or Beethoven or Bach on command, and to sing the alphabet, count to ten or more, and have basic conversations in French, Spanish, Italian, and American Sign Language.
I only wish I was exaggerating.
Our autism spectrum means he is focused solely on things he cares deeply about, fascinated by the world around him, curious about very specific things and ideas, and couldn’t care less about anything that doesn’t light up his soul.
This is why we don’t say that our son has autism. If you have a disease, it needs to be cured.
Our son is autistic. He is who he is, and autism is a pretty incredible part of that.
So here I am, driving him to karate and swim and enjoying the first sweet days of kindergarten and still not identifying myself with any of these fleeting seasons.
They will all pass in turn, but one thing remains the same.
My son made me a mother, and I am forever changed.
Mommy is my favorite name in the world, my favorite thing to be, the role I was born for.
An autism mom.
I call myself an autism mom, and it’s okay with me if you call me that too.