IF YOU COULD JUST TELL ME (A plea to my son with autism)…

calmDo you know how my heart breaks when I cannot help you? I feel emptiness inside watching you battle though something that I cannot control. Helplessness. So many times in a day I will myself to be more for you. To look for answers to questions that I do not understand.

Do you see through my front of strength? If you look just below the surface you will find the place where I keep all of my fears. I need to protect you from that place. When you look at me I do not want you to see fear. I want to be the strength you need. The strength that you deserve.

I see you. I hear you. I feel your pain as if it is my own. I know your heart. I know your heart because it used to beat inside of me. I choose to enter your beautiful, magical world. I look all around me and try to experience it the way you see it.

I hear a loud sound and without looking I know that you are covering your ears. Oh, how I wish I understood why. Did it surprise you? Does the sound make you feel pain? Do you feel safer when you block out this nosy world? Is this sound different in your ears than it is in mine?

I see a pond and I know you will run to it.  Water makes you happy. Water brings you peace. Other children play at the park and never notice the pond, but the water calls to you. It draws you in. Why? Is it the way the water moves? Do you like the feeling of touching the water? Is it the way the water shines? Why does it make you feel so happy?

And despite all of my efforts, I simply cannot experience the world the way you do. And, because I cannot feel it, know it, I worry that I will fall short in helping you navigate through it.

If only you could explain to me. Tell me in words the way you feel. Help me to know the things that we need to change. To soften. To make less. Help me understand the things that turn our calm moments together upside down. Tell me about the things that race into your head and keep you from sleeping. Help me understand why you need things just so. Explain to me your fears about playing with your friends.

If you could just tell me then I know we could figure it out.  Together. Together we will work day by day to adapt your needs to this world. And, then one day at a time we will work to adapt this world to your needs. I just need you to tell me. Or show me. I just need to know. Because not knowing is the hardest part. Please, tell me.

But you can’t. Or you won’t. Or something in the middle of the two.

And because you cannot say it, and because I cannot know it; we go on each day in this place of unknowing and fear. We each live in worlds that feel bigger than us. Faster. More. For you it is autism that makes you feel small. For me it is my inability to help you. I feel small in a way that no parent wants to feel small. And, I imagine you feel small in a way that no child wants to feel small. We are both small, living in worlds that seem so big. Too big.

And, so we look for ways to feel big. We try new things every day. We look for certainty in uncertain places. Each day you understand a little more clearly the things that you need. I am learning to pay attention to your world and the things that impact it. And I as watch I see that you are doing the same thing. You are learning about the world and the way that you need it to be.

And each day, as you know your own world a little better, you come a little closer to showing me. To telling me. And when that day comes, I will know. And, because I will know, I will be bigger. And because I will bigger, I will be strong enough and brave enough and big enough to help you take on this world.

I know you can’t. I know you won’t. But someday if you can, if you will, just tell me. And then we can both be bigger together. Big enough to take on this world. Together.





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