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You know that feeling of pure joy you get when your child comes running into your arms whenever you get home? It doesn’t matter if you were gone all day or for a few minutes, they just come running and want all your love in the form of extra bear hugs and smooches. Or how about that precious moment of taking your child to the store to run a quick errand, which is just an excuse to spend a little one on one time with them? These little moments seem to get away from us. These little moments can melt your heart and remind you that all the struggles in parenthood are worth it.
For me, these precious little moments are often times lost or missing with our oldest boy and our youngest girl. These precious moments take on a whole new meaning when you have a child with autism. Hugs come sparingly, and when you master to get a genuine hug in without constant squirming to get out of it, it tends to mean more and is celebrated. I can tell you the last time he gave me a genuine hug and it was Saturday around 4 pm, right after a session in Play Therapy where he was brave and touched slime that was just too much sensation for him. He then came by me on the couch in the lounge room, grabbed his tablet, and insisted I pace my arms around him. He needed me in that moment of embrace, but what he will never know, is I needed him to need me. I needed to know that my huggable little boy was still there.
Other little moments that seem to be lost somewhere in space are the looking into your child’s eyes as they tell you some elaborate story of their day. With our four year-old, who has just started school this year, gets so excited to tell me about her day with her teacher. I can look in her eyes and see the excitement. With our son, the only thing he gets excited to talk to us about is dinosaurs. I know he’s truly excited to tell us all about the cousins to the Tyranosaures Rex, but I never get to see those excited blue eyes for more than a split second. He just cannot keep his eyes on you, it’s too difficult for him. These are little moments that, as parents, we just kinda take for granted, but for me they are the little moments that just remind me of how different my babies are. Little moments that seem to slip away.
We recently started taking our two year old little girl to a daycare/preschool, to help prevent any social regression with her older siblings now both in school. In typical play settings, you will often find Piper just wandering around in her own little world. Playing with rocks and dirt; completely content with being by herself. Sure, we can get her to play or at least follow the other kiddos with enough prompting, or more so if her big bubba and sissy are there. So, when I received a picture of her playing side by side another little girl without any prompting, I cried like a baby. A regular moment for any other parent, or even for my older daughter, but for Piper, it was truly something special. It told me that she is ok. It made all the other moments where she is on the playground by herself, or when she walking into her school’s building without so much as a look back, seem like a lifetime ago.
Other special moments, like watching your kid run around with his soccer or basketball team, or wanting to hold your entire hand as you walk, and not just barely holding the pinky. All of these that, as parents of “typical” kids, we take for granted. It’s not until your sitting among other moms, bragging about how many words their kiddo is saying, or how they just constantly need hugs and reassurance that you realize how few and spread-out those moments are. Those special moments that every parent dreams about, truly are lost and missed if you are an autism parent.
So, I’ll take my awkward 10 sec hug this morning, and I’ll wait for the next time he truly needs an embrace from me. I’ll cherish it like it will be the last one, because one of these days, it just might be. I’ll save that picture of her playing side by side with another girl, and I’ll reminisce over it as she plays with the rocks at the park. I’ll take time out of my day to look into those beautiful blue eyes that I helped to make, even if they aren’t staring back at me. I’ll take the moments we do get, and place them in a special part of my heart. I will cherish them and embrace all moments along the way.
Next time your child comes running to give you a hug, or eagerly stares at you as they tell you a story, don’t let those moments pass you by. Don’t shrug them off as just ant other moment and take them for granted, because believe me, as a parent of children with autism, those moments are rare. To all my autism mamas and dads out there, cherish those lost moments. Don’t be sad because there aren’t many, be grate-full for the moments you do catch, and be there to catch any more that come swooping your way.