I am am autism mama. Period.
I have two children. My eldest is a beautiful, kind, nearly ten old neurotypical girl. She is often the forgotten child because she can do her homework unsupervised, get herself dressed, even make herself something to eat when she is hungry. I take for granted that she doesn’t need me nearly as much as my son does.
The thing is though ….she DOES.
My baby girl is growing up at warp speed and I’ve been missing it. Until tonight.
Tonight we went to her school for the “Night of Giving”. It’s an event where we stuffed small teddy bears and decorated little shirts for them so they can be delivered to several local hospital NICU’s.
It. Was. Magical.
We walked her school hand in hand listening to the music playing from the local church’s Living Nativity. It’s an event that I went to as a very small child and one that I have brought my own children to. It’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
When we arrived, my daughter saw one of her dear friends, a girl who moved onto middle school in September. They ran to hug one another and my daughter brought V over to introduce me. It turns out that she was the reason this event was created in the first place. She had been born premature and spent her first Christmas in the NICU. Her mom, a former PTA leader, was so touched by the ornaments and decorations that the nurses placed with such care alongside her daughter’s isolette that she is now paying it forward. My daughter and I will be joining them on Christmas Eve morning to help deliver these bears to families with delicate, fragile babies in the NICU and remind them that they aren’t forgotten or alone.
I didn’t just watch my daughter carefully stuff her bears, gently tuck the little heart inside that she wished upon for the babies to get well, and illustrate the tiny little t-shirts… I SAW her tonight. I saw how much she wants to make this world a better place. I
saw how much she cares about others more than herself. I really SAW her. A beautiful, kind,
compassionate, loving person who will impact this world in so many positive ways. I didn’t
just hear her voice, but I listened intently to every word she said. It was the first time since icantrememberwhen that we were able to spend some significant time together, just the two of us (MANY thanks to J for looking after my son so I could have this gift of time. Best gift EVER, by the way).
When the last bears were completed and the last cookies eaten, we said our goodbyes to friends and headed towards home. It was a picture perfect December night. Cold enough for warm, cozy clothing but not so cold that we were in any rush to get home. The church music was still playing so we headed towards it to see if we could catch part of the show. Unfortunately, we had missed it tonight (thankfully there is still tomorrow) but we walked slowly and talked. We laughed. We hugged. And we thanked one another for this precious night. My eyes may or may not have leaked a little. I told her that she was without question the best I have EVER done in my life. I have no doubt about that. She is MY own December born Christmas miracle.
As we walked towards home, we had our arms around one another and chatted about how special this night was. We admired Christmas decorations and named our favorite carols. My sweet girl told me then that she had written a letter to Santa (she knows, I told her, but she still chooses to believe) and that she had asked for three things. The first two were expected, things that have already been purchased. It was the third wish however that caused my eyes to leak again. She confided that all she really wanted was for her family to be happy and together for Christmas.
We arrived home but lingered at the front door for a bit, neither of us wanting this magical night to end. I invited her to sit down next to me on the front steps. The church music was still playing and we were enjoying it so much that we sat and listened for a while, hugging one another the entire time. That was when she said it… “we need to spend more time like this”.
Yes. God, yes. Yes we do.
Tucked within those eight little monosyllabic words was the most wonderful gift of all- my daughter wants more time just like this.
I can not wait to give it to her.
Life is precious and it’s short and none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. Hug your precious children because they grow up in the blink of an eye. No matter how independent they may seem on the outside, they need you. And trust me, you need them. The greatest gift you can bestow upon your child isn’t money or toys, it’s the gift of your time and undivided attention. Put the cell phone down. Turn the computer off. Just go for a walk and talk. Its in that time together where you will rediscover long lost joy.
Happy Holidays everyone. I wish you all good health, love, and laughter. May the coming new year be a better one for all of us.