This is Matthew.

Matthew is smart. Too smart.

But boy, is he difficult. A difficult, wonderful, unusual human.

He barely eats—aside from chicken nuggets and pancakes. He will gag and “choke” and spit anything else out, even most chicken because he insists it’s “too soft” or “too hard”. Certain textures “scratch” his throat. Even a frozen waffle poses the risks of a major meltdown. It can’t be cooked too much or too little, too crunchy, too soft. Oh, how many Eggos have been deemed unworthy for being imperfectly toasted by yours truly. 

Did I mention the last time he had a vegetable was sweet potato baby food at 6-months-old? 

I really wish I was exaggerating.

I really wish people would stop telling me to just blend *insert random vegetable* into his milkshakes, and he will never even notice, problem solved. He would in fact notice because the smell, the taste, the color would all be just a smidge off in his mind. 

He struggles with anxiety and wearing pants. Because if you are inside, who needs pants?

And then there’s bath time. The water is not just too hot or just too cold. It’s “burning my organs!” or “turning my bones into icicles!” Exact quotes. 

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I have to stand there and adjust the knobs, praying for the right degree and silencing the voice in my head mourning the fact there are no knobs I could just adjust a little to make my son a little more like other people’s sons. More normal.

I silence it because it isn’t true, not in the slightest. I don’t want him to be normal (whatever that means). 

I just wish things didn’t feel so hard for him, and that I could shield him from this unforgiving world. 

He will pick his cuticles and then cry and say his skin is falling off and he’s gonna die.

He talks about poop way too much. Not just “Oh, he’s a boy,” age-appropriate too much. I have to constantly remind him it’s not proper. 

His favorite color is the rainbow.

He potty trained himself at the age of two and to this day has never had an accident.

He says when he starts school next year he is going to scream every day until they kick him out. He says he’ll miss me too much and his heart will be broken.

But this boy doesn’t listen half the time, and the other half he “just doesn’t hear” me. It is a fight to get him to pick up his toys, and usually, I lose. He says his legs are too tired and usually my mind is too tired to argue about it.

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Sometimes he hits himself. Or says he’s ugly. He says it’s OK, it’s just himself. Which breaks my heart. I don’t understand because I’ve made sure each day he knows he’s wonderful. And loved, so very loved.

Outside time usually turns into a meltdown—if an ant happens too close to his shoe or if the sun shines too bright upon his face. And God forbid he gets a scratch, he will cry and insist we call an ambulance, but there is not a drop of blood.

He likes to smell his siblings’ feet and my hair.

I still have to take pacifiers from him and remind him he’s almost five. He doesn’t want to be almost five because he thinks that means he’s not my baby anymore.

He just told me he loved me for the first time a few weeks ago. 

He wouldn’t go down a slide at the playground until just recently. 

His memory is crazy good.

With him, there is no inside voice—no understanding, no we need to have quiet time voice.

If I get onto him about anything or raise my voice out of my normal tone, he thinks I’m yelling and “I hate him,” or he says he hates me and I’m the meanest mom ever. 

When his baby brother cries, he covers his ears and refuses to try to play with him or calm him. He is overwhelmed by the noise and wants me to return him to the baby store.

He lacks empathy in most situations but is overly empathetic in some.

Sometimes he “turns into Bumblebee” and doesn’t talk and only makes beeping robot noises. Because he’s not just in costume, he is Bumblebee.

He is different.

Beautifully different.

In a world of labels, he’s probably autistic and has sensory processing disorder.

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But late at night when it’s just him and me still up, he is so sweet. The sweetest. We share a toasted Pop-Tart and watch TV. Our little ritual. He rubs my hair and tells me he loves me and never wants to grow up. He says he’s four, which is close to three, which is close to two, which is close to one, which means he’s almost a newborn.

He is hilarious—the funniest person I know.

I adore the way his mind works and the way he words things. I created a blog just about the random funny things he says. One time I was lying down outside, and he asked me why I was being a stick. The other day he asked me how I paused the video of the flies in our window, but it was dead flies on a clear window trap.

Sometimes he stares at me and tells me I’m cute and will name things he loves about my face. Sometimes he will randomly start crying while naming them, and when I ask what’s wrong, he says (while still bawling), “I just love you so much.”

He is so sensitive. He will cry his eyes out at the mere mention of getting older because he wants to be my baby forever. I tell him no matter how old he is, he’ll be my baby always. But he says he’s not sure if he can love me when there are wrinkles on my face, and gray strands upon my head, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

As for now, I’m only certain of this:

He is so much extra work.

So many extra tears to wipe.

So many extra feelings to navigate.

Because his heart and mind work differently.

Because he is so much more than ordinary.

He is my extra un-ordinary little boy. 

Jessica Raines

My name is Jessica. I'm from Georgia. I'm 27 and have three beautiful, crazy, wonderful children.