Confessions of an Autism Mom

For as long as I can remember, I wished I had a crystal so I could see into the future with my son Jack and his autism.

I hated when people said time would tell. Or to relax, it would all work out for the best. I wanted to know it for myself.

Since the day Jack was diagnosed, I was always racing against the clock.

I wanted to know when he would speak to me in full sentences, and if he would learn to potty train, and the night he finally slept more than two hours in a row.

I wanted to know how he’d do in kindergarten, and if he would ride the bus to school.

I wanted to know if we would survive—my marriage, my family, my vision of motherhood.

But I have to confess, I never got as far as adolescence. My brain stopped somewhere around fifth grade. I can’t really tell you why.

This Saturday, Jack will be sixteen years old.

At six foot, three inches, he is the tallest person in our house. 

His voice sounds like he is barking at me from the bottom of a cave.

He has facial hair, and acne, and all the terribleness puberty has to offer.

I have lived alongside autism for sixteen years.

Sometimes I still cry. It’s less and less, but it happens.

What can I say? It has been a long, long journey to this point.

In the beginning, puberty overwhelmed him.

He bit teachers.

He threw computers.

He changed schools.

His hormones went crazy and he was mean and said a lot of bad words and talked about knives and death and making it all go away.

I used to think the hardest thing about a son with autism was his lack of filter.

Now, I know. I know the hardest part is having the sex talk with a son and his lack of filter.

Also, hiding the knives after he goes to bed.

And watching him hurt in some invisible way.

This is the ugly side of autism—the side where anxiety and depression and anger took over my boy.

He was the cutest baby. He was born on Mother’s Day.

My marriage survived.

My family survived.

But I have to confess, my vision of motherhood did not survive. It changed. It curled up like a sweet, naïve baby caterpillar and evolved into something resembling a butterfly, or maybe a Luna moth.

I grew my own mother-wings, is what I am trying to say. At some point I realized it was the only way I could teach him to fly.

It was not easy work. There were no shortcuts. This makes me bitter and a little mad, because I always, always want a shortcut.

Through the hardness and the tears and the shouting and the fear, I became something else entirely.

I became a good mother.

Not a great mother.

Not a fantastic mother, or exceptional. Not even great.

I am good.

I am good enough.

I am good enough for this boy and his diagnosis and my marriage and my family.

I am enough.                       

You are, too.

Let me be your crystal ball.

It is all going to be good.

Maybe not fantastic, or exceptional, or great every single minute of every single day.

But good.

Some days, let that be enough.

Happy belated Mother’s Day, from one autism-warrior-we-got-this-mom, to another. If you listen closely, he will let you inside his dreams. He will tell you the first time he saw fire.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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