For Grayson…a message to my son with autism before his first day of school.

For GraysonTomorrow you start 4K. This day is a day your dad and I have thought about a lot since your diagnosis. Over the past 15 months we have spend many days talking about this day. Planning for this day. Worrying about this day. Where would you go? How would you do? Would we make the “right” choice? Would you be ready? Would we be ready?
Today your high school graduation feels like a millions miles away. Although, I know that one day, not too long from now, I will look back on this moment and think that it all passed by too quickly. So, before you grow another day older, before you head off to school, before it all passes by in the blink of an eye; I need you to know something. You are amazing and strong and wonderfully unique and I am so incredibly proud of you each and every day. 
I want you to promise me that you will hold tight to my words. Hear them. Remember them. Let them wrap around you when you feel down. Let them play over in your head when you need the strength to rise above. Remember you, the way I see you. Amazing. Strong. Wonderfully unique. Perfectly imperfect in all of the best ways.
You have a way of looking at the world that is full of magic. Seeing something through your eyes, for the first time or the hundredth time, is such a joyful experience. You see things. Not just with your eyes. You really see things. You look at a person or an object with so much intention. And, as you see something the wheels in your brain turn as you figure it all out. You study it, you take it in, you transform it from something unknown to something you know so deeply. I see you do this, and I watch in awe.
Your ability to really see things also helps you to remember things. Everything. Every single thing. You remember things that I completely forget. You remind me when you share a memory as we arrive to a place we have not been in years. Or when you tell me a specific detail about someone you only met one time.  Your memory is an amazing gift. But, it also causes a fair share of challenges. It makes redirecting you much more difficult. It makes it difficult for you to be adaptable. You want to recreate the same experience over and over. We try hard to teach you the importance of experiencing things in new and different ways.  We understand that sometimes you “need” things to be the same. So, we do our fair share of picking our battles in this arena. I love that you like to keep things the same. You are sentimental. Attached. I like to believe that you get this trait from me.
You are so smart. Too smart. The kind of smart that makes us say “oh boy” every day. You know things. And you remember things. And all of these things are stored in your brain. Your beautiful, wonderful, magical brain.
You feel emotion so deeply. Your emotions are much closer to the surface than most people keep them. Your joy is bounding. You feel excitement and happiness just being in the presence of things you love. Water. Outside. Friends. School. The color green. You literally jump for joy. It is as if your body lets out a tiny buzzing sound as energy and elation pour out of you. Happiness overcomes you. You experience anger and sadness the same way. You do not have any little emotions. They are all big. Super big.   We watch sometimes as happiness drains from your body and anger or sadness settles in. We buckle down and brace for impact. We do what we can to help, but many times you just need to ride the wave. And then, as quickly as it came, it is gone. The joy rushes back into your body. You jump for joy. You buzz.
This particular trait is one I think about a lot as I prepare to send you off to school. No one knows your emotions like we have come to know them. They do not know the signs. Or the triggers. They do not know the strategies. They do not know your heart. That you love so deeply. That you feel true sadness and remorse. But even the deepest remorse will not stop you in 5 minutes if the same urge takes over your body. They will come to know this. They will learn the strategies. They will know your heart. I believe this. Because believing this is the only way I have come to grip with letting you walk out of our door and out into the world.
You see, my beautiful boy, until now I have been able to protect you from so much. From places. From triggers. From people. From yourself. From the world. And as we prepare to send you out into that world; I realize there will be so many moments I cannot protect you from. There will be places that make you scared. There will be triggers that set you off. There will be people who do not understand you. I have to know in my heart that the work we do at home will help you in the world. I have to believe that we have raised you, despite the obstacles in your way, to face the world head on. Sure of yourself. Sure of how perfectly perfect you are.
So before you head out the door, I need you to know that I believe in you. I am in awe of you. You are kind and wonderful and amazing. And, my little man, are going to take this world by storm.

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