For many years I have sat lamenting what was. Not just for myself, for you. I have asked myself if I was selfish to want just one more child. I have wondered if we pushed our luck saying we’d be open to whatever life God provided for us? Recently, I realized His plan was far greater than mine and while I have moments of missing what was, feeling guilty for what you lost, I am grateful for what is.

Often I think back and remember life before. In fact, I remember the day your little sister arrived. We drove nearly 30 minutes to pick you up from the school you loved. Your vice principal gathered you up and scooped up your belongings, much like a grandparent, and shuffled you to our car.

I remember being present at your school ALL THE TIME. From taking time to tour families with hopes of joining our incredible school family of students to coffee talk and morning prayersI was there.

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You all speak most fondly of Trunk or Treat, and while I spent hours planning it and executing it with extreme exhaustion, I know when I showed up dressed as an eighth-grader or with your father in tow in a light-up bumblebee costume, you delighted in our family time, together.

And then, autism impacted our lives.

I couldn’t be there as much, and in public school, heck, you just can’t be there as much. I tried my best to be involved, but there were moments I just couldn’t give what I had before.

Autism has changed the way we do things. Family outings are minimal. I sat back in awe of each of you as you transitioned nicely to the local public school. I was proud of you as you each found your niche with friends and extracurricular activities and academically. I see you. Each one of you is blossoming and finding your own way. Through the changes, you never complained even when you tearfully left the life you knew and the school you loved.

From the beginning, you were each all in. It was obvious in your wish to work alongside any therapist who entered our home and each day as we spent hours driving to sit in a cubicle, all five of us watching a closed-captioned TV from a secluded room, you were captivated as your sister worked hard through countless hours in speech therapy so we could hear her words. You all dug in deep, giggling together and cheering her on every step of the way.

Don’t think your sacrifice for this new life has gone unnoticed. Each and every day, I am in awe of you.

I know you have had your struggles, but every day you get up and choose to be on this journey with us, as a family. As you each continue to grow, developing into your own beings with your own dreams and desires, I want you to know I see a better you because of autism.

I see you gravitating to children who need extra love and support even when it’s not a disability. I see you looking to find ways to help the community through social outreach and justice. I see you standing up for your beliefs–even when I may be afraid to stand up myself.

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Children, this journey isn’t just a journey for your sister or your parents. This journey is for you too and I see the beauty it’s drawing out of you.

Often I wonder if you miss our old life?

I want to know if you wish autism wasn’t part of your story, but I am afraid to ask. I am fearful I have let you down, failed you. I want you to have all you did before . . . and maybe what you have is better than I could have imagined.

Yesterday as I walked in our neighborhood with one of you, I watched as you began to teach your sister about mailboxes, about community service, about how to interact with children who could become her peers, and I realized you may miss our old life and that is OK. But in this new life, I want you to know the plan laid out before you is better than anything I could have given you before. His plan to get you to your greatest self is beginning to be obvious, and I am grateful I am along for the ride, watching you each give of yourself for the greater good of the world.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Elizabeth North

Elizabeth is a mother of five, who enjoys wading through the waters of life with a busy house, full-time job, and a passion for advocating and educating others on the journey of life with autism.