The Seventh Year

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In church we sing, 

Let the King of my heart 
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in my waves…
‘Cause You are good 
You are good, oh oh 
Oh, He is my song…
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let me down 
– Bethel Music 

My son, tonight I held you as you stood on a chair in our church. I sang this song to you and you smiled at me.

I wondered if you understood that I was worshiping and thanking God for trusting me to be your mom. This song resonates with me and in this, your seventh year, it wrecks me a little bit more than usual.

In this new school year, more than any other so far in our journey, I feel raw.

Especially, when it comes to thinking about all of the challenges you faced and conquered and all that the future may or may not hold for you.

Your seventh year is typically full of big developmental milestones and maybe that is why all my feelings are really close to the surface.

Sadness, joy, hope, confusion and doubt are all bubbling up more than what usually feels comfortable. 

In college psychology courses I studied theories of human development and how in the seventh year your personality is cemented.

Basically, who you are at seven will be the core of who you are moving forward in life. All your past development and future achievements seem to hinge on this critical year. 

I look around and see your peers heading off to 2nd and 3rd grades. The years when school starts to really matter.

Reading and math skills are heavily emphasized and meticulously measured. 

Kids enter gifted programs for the first time.

Socially, your peers are all making lasting relationships with friends. Starting to have sleep overs, spending days at each other’s houses, and are going to social events together. 

When I reflect on this, grief does not accurately describe what I feel watching you be seven years old.

Grief usually is reserved for something you lost and is defined as “a natural reaction” to that sense of loss.

How can I grieve for your “typicalness” when it was never really there?

God made you who you are from the very beginning. It feels more like you and I are living in a parallel universe.

We are traversing an alternate reality that not many regular people get to experience.

A reality where you look like a regular seven year old kid and are in truth are any thing but.  

In our unique cosmos that is your life, the black holes of darkness and confusion are abundant.

So are the experiences of wonderment and joy. 

I watch other kids who are close to your age do all the classic kid things.

At seven years old they hold inquisitive conversations with their peers and parents.

Play pretend games in the streets. Watch superhero movies and imagine with figurines from those comic books.  

Meanwhile, you and I are in another place of space and time. Your days are full of teachers and therapists.

They are the people you consider your friends. I know this because when you have been away from school for more than two days you start asking for them on your speech device. I love that. 

We don’t have conversations with words and there are no questions about why is the sky blue or how do birds fly. 

You point, make noises and try verbalize more and more requests.

Mostly, we live in your silent universe of spinning objects and stimming on doors. Well, the door part is not always so quiet.

Friends are not calling to have you come over and spend the days or nights at their houses.

I know you can read but so far no one can figure out how to accurately measure this skill. 

Because those things are missing from our reality, your reality, I notice a heavy sadness.

I feel heartache mostly because I want you to have all those typical experiences.

Best friends at your birthday parties and conversations about why planets glow brighter than stars. 

And, even in that melancholy, there are many moments where I am completely in awe of the amazing human being you are. 

Your kindness and love for others are evident when you smile at kids who say “Hi” to you on the playground.

Your joy is there for everyone to see when Imagine Dragons songs are played and a smile lights up your whole face.

I also rejoice at how God has used all of these difficult experiences in your journey for our good.

Those competing feelings are similar to when you look up at the night sky and marvel at your smallness in the galaxy and your bigness in your own life. 

Right now, we are rushing at light speed towards the next seven years of your life. I am scared and feel really small compared against all the major choices and planning needed to map out your future.

You and I are sailing in uncharted space and I fear getting off course. A course that I really don’t have any guidance for because you are a truly unique and amazing individual.

Tonight, when I sang that God is “the wind in my sails and anchor in my waves”, I realized I have my guide in this journey.

I have to remind myself that God is the force that will always steer our ship. I get now it’s okay to feel scared and small because even those feelings are being used for good.

I have to have faith that our pile of good things and bad things is being used to make our lives richer.

I sang to you tonight that God will never let us down. He will never let me down kiddo.

He’s got me and I got you kid. I will never let you down. 

Written by, Terra Smith

Terra Smith is a mom, wife, therapist, writer and podcaster. She co-hosts Normal with Autism podcast with her fellow special needs mom. Her goal is to have those outside the special needs community learn about the lives of a special needs families and hopes to provide encouragement to those in the community. You can follow their story on Facebook at Normal With Autism, on Instagram and on her iTunes Podcast.

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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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