The Eve of Eight
Tomorrow morning, I will awaken to my little boy being eight. Eight. It seems like such a big number to me now.
An eight year old. But not the type who kisses my cheek as he sprints out the door in search of neighbourhood friends, or pedals his bike to the corner store with a bulging pocket of coins and dreams of sweet. My eight will still hold my hand, and not be allowed to play outside of a fenced yard alone.
Autism. Autism is a part of my eight year old. It started out being part of my three year old, but through the mysterious passage of time, endless days turned to fleeting years. Soon my three became a four; my four grew into five, six into seven. And here I sit, on the eve of eight.
I used to fear this passage of time, I waved it down like a quickly passing train, begging it to slow down, or stop. I feared the days my son’s differences would emerge from their camouflage of toddlerhood. I yearned for the memories of stroking his cheek, pinching his flexing toes, and squeezing his rounded ankles as an infant, when his possibilities seemed as limitless as a prairie horizon. But fourteen month olds aren’t supposed to speak in full sentences, or label complex heavy equipment like a master engineer. They are supposed to wave like they mean it though, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to prompt him to say I love you too. I wasn’t naïve enough to live in that kind of denial.
With diagnosis came a new sky. A scary sky, capped at the edges with a cloudy fringe, not letting me peep through, to see what lay ahead. I was scared. More scared than I’d ever been. The kind of fear that soaks a young mother’s pillow night upon night, the kind of fear she hides behind a mask of acceptance. It was a fear I could not share, because no one else could understand.
But true acceptance has come. It just took time to take root, as all meaningful things do. Its fragile ribbons weaved their way through me, thickening my skin, changing how my eyes see, how my ears hear, how my heart feels. Autism has grown on me too. I see it more as a difference than a better than or a less than. I am in awe of my son’s unique perspective on the word, his ability to trust his own instincts. How in tune he is. How he can draw whatever he wants, in three-dimension, and it always looks good.
Now, as he grows older, I do not mind if he stands unmasked, and bask in the glow of the uniqueness that is him. I cannot control or even forecast how others will react, how they will treat him. What I do know, is that as his exceptions begin to stand out, it is not shame that swallows me. It is a pride. And if he finds himself spotlighted in a crowd, I would applaud him to always be himself. I have no notions of the glorification of blending, assimilating. I am ashamed if I ever did.
So, tomorrow, as we awaken to eight, I will walk strongly towards it, head held high, holding his hand in mine.