My husband, Rocky (not his real name), and I have two sons. Herbie (also not his real name) is in kindergarten, and at the moment loves VW bugs, tornado sirens, music, and any activity that allows him to run around and make noise. Our second son, The Wise Old Owl (I think maybe I'll shorten that to Owl, of course you've figured out that is also not his real name), is in preschool. He loves to sit and learn. He also loves to cook. Every day we concoct new foods free of allergens, and he is a master at measuring and mixing (well, he spills a few things and I'm never sure if we get the right amounts in there but it usually turns out OK). He defies the conventional wisdom that if you involve a child in food preparation that he will be more likely to eat.
Herbie is on the spectrum, officially diagnosed when he was in preschool. We have our suspicions about the Owl, he gets plenty of therapy without any diagnosis, but at some point we would like to get more answers if such a thing is really possible.
When my kids were babies, I had no idea that they were not developing like their peers. I was thankful every day for my healthy, "normal" children. When Herbie was an active toddler and Owl was just a newborn, I remember reading an essay written by a mother whose son has autism. It was a beautiful article about how she loved her child and had come to terms with his differences. I saved it for some reason. I thought to myself how lucky I was to not have to deal with the things that the author described. I kept the article with the idea that if a friend of mine ever had a special-needs baby, I would have something helpful to pass along. Because surely I would have no idea what she was really going through. I knew that I could never do it and I never wanted to. Yet here I sit some years later with not one but two special-needs children. And I needed to re-read that article for myself. I now know that the author was right. It is hard to comprehend being a parent for a child with special needs. But she points out that when a child becomes my child, suddenly it is possible. Before I knew of any diagnoses, I just loved my children for who there were. Nothing changed from that regard when I found out they needed extra help. I still look at them and see my sweet, awesome kids. I will do whatever it takes to help them thrive.