Shop the fall collection ➔

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. 

RELATED: Here’s to the Parents Raising Exceptional Children

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.

RELATED: To the Mom of a Difficult Child: What if You’re Raising a Peter?

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.

RELATED: My Son’s Name Is Not Autism

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. 

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading

Teach Your Kids to Be Kind to Those Who Are Different from Them

In: Kids, Living
Little boy with Down syndrome in pool

On the eve of Zeke starting kindergarten, I have many hopes for my youngest child, mostly that other kids treat those who are different from them with kindness. Or maybe with a slightly sassy, “SO WHAT?” to those who may be being unkind. This summer while on vacation we were having a great time swimming at a pool. There are few places that top a swimming pool in Zeke’s mind. He is SO happy in the water. Zeke was playing in the kiddie pool by himself while I sat at a table nearby. As he played, kids would enter the...

Keep Reading

Your Kids Are Exhausted by the Start of the School Year—Go Easy On Them

In: Kids
Child with tablet on couch

In the first weeks of school, your child has been a rockstar.  They have faced brand new situations—daily—multiple times a day. New people, new friends, new teachers. New schools, new classrooms, new procedures.   They have remembered a billion things. Which bus to ride. Which room to enter. Which hall to turn down. What their schedule is. Which class is next and what book they need for that class. When to be quiet. Where to sit. How to sit. Where the bathroom was. Where to line up. What the directions were. Thirty or so new names. They have been quiet for...

Keep Reading