I’ve been up since 4:22am. Again. Not because this is what time I get up. Not because this is my favorite time of the morning to be up, or write. But because my body and mind seem to think it is a good time to be up, and apparently I don’t need much sleep.
I’ve wandered with Jesus since I was 15. I am 36 years old, and I can honestly say I’ve wandered more than walked. But sometimes, just sometimes, I am dragged. Much like Sadness in Inside Out, (yes that was a Disney reference), I let Joy drag me rather than getting on my own two feet and walk this crazy @#%$* out.
My son is 12 years old and he has had autism since we was 1 year old, although we didn’t find out until he was 3, and the guilt of that, the not knowing or noticing, is heavy. Every day I think of how I’ve failed him, how if I could’ve just gotten my head out of my @$#% and just looked up and seen this little boy who was suffering in his own silent hell, maybe, just maybe I could’ve done something more. But I was 24, and as if age and maturity is an excuse, I didn’t know any better. I kick myself for all the mistakes I made in my twenties, but this one takes the cake. I ruined him. I messed him up. I failed him as his mother, and as if God could made a mistake, I take on the full responsibility and guilt of that daily.
My son is now considered mild on the spectrum, which has its own set of problems. He is “too” high functioning for most assistance programs, and “too” not typical for mainstream. And the real problem is there isn’t enough for these kids that are just “in-between”. In fact, there is nothing.
I’ve struggled quietly with my son’s autism for several years now. He’s so close to being typical that I forget very often that he is just plain not. And the funny thing is, the one thing I appreciate about both of my kids is how weird they BOTH are, and how NOT typical they BOTH are. My daughter is this amazing free spirit, strong-willed, beautiful little girl who is NOTHING like you’ve ever seen before. I always say you’ve never met a four year old girl like her. But for some reason, and I know this is typical of myself, I cannot just let go of my preconceived notions of what Jalen SHOULD be and pick up what he COULD be if I just choose to let go and give up those expectations of normalcy.
I won’t lie, I have control issues, most of which I have let Jesus heal me. But with Jalen, I hang on tight, not to go along for the ride but push and force-guide him along this wandering path. It’s like I’ve carved out with well formed, picture perfect winding path, and while it is winding, it’s the path I’VE carved out for him instead of just handing him the shovel.
Over the last year and a half I’ve spent a lot of time crying over this son of mine. It is breaking my heart every time I think about him. I’ve cried to his teacher and my friend, Anna, the most. And I am so grateful for her heart and her encouragement, her prayers and her willingness to just hug me while I stand in her kitchen and cry, which is quite often I must confess.
So this is me, attempting to hand over the shovel to a son who loves Jesus with all of his heart, sings along to worship songs, and who lifts his hands in praise in children’s church. His heart is pure and he is single-minded in his love and devotion to The Savior he asked into his heart at nine years old. And sure, he is twelve and full of hormones and attitude, but I love my firstborn with all my heart. We’ve survived some tough years together, and for the longest it was just the two of us. He is an amazing big brother to his sister who is a full eight years younger than him. He still loves to play, has an amazing imagination, and gets super embarrassed even when he just sees two people kiss on TV, even though he’s kissed a number of little girls himself. He is a lady’s man, is super serious about his clothes and shoes (alarmingly serious), and moves as slow as molasses. He’s random and is rarely talking about something I understand. He loves music with a passion, wants to be a Sea World trainer when he grows up, and loves to be held and hugged. And with all these amazingly awesome qualities I still tend to focus on what he is not.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in my wanderings with Jesus it is this: He is not concerned with what you are NOT. He wants you to know what He IS instead. So everyday I will get up and choose again and again to focus on what my son IS, and not what he is NOT. I will make him believe with all his heart who he is in Jesus, and why of all mothers The Father could’ve given him, He chose me.
I am fully aware that this kid of mine has had a rough life. I’ve been right alongside him in it. But there is one thing I can be certain of: he has been loved more than he will EVER know through ALL of it.