I love my children and, for most parents, that is a pretty open and shut statement. You declare it, put it into the universe, and close the door.
When you have a child with special needs, like my non-verbal son with autism, sometimes that statement comes a bit packed. It’s a response to those who might be wondering if there are deeper issues bubbling underneath my parental surface. They see the struggles, but not the good parts, and project my “difficulties” onto themselves in an imagined scenario. They wonder if, had they been in my shoes, they’d feel the same way.
So, I say the thing that most of us would say. “I love him because he’s mine“. Just like his sister, who is neurotypical, for lack of a much-better term, he is my child and nothing can ever take that away. It’s the premise of my affection for him and the hold he will always have on my heart.
Declaring that “I love him because he’s mine” is a beautiful sentiment that comes from the right place. For me, it goes back to the original statements people make in the nine months prior to a baby’s arrival. They say, “As long as he or she is healthy, I will be happy.” But then, when they arrive, even that doesn’t matter. Healthy or unhealthy, your child will always make you happy. There will always be love. Health, gender, or anything else is just window-dressing for this little life that is forever a part of you.
The thing is, loving him “because he’s mine” is just one part of the much grander equation and dismissive of a bigger point. It’s a hypothetical that you say about a child who hasn’t arrived yet. You make small talk next to a pregnant belly and tell someone that you’ll love them “no matter what”. It’s something we say about parenthood in general and not a specific kid who’s already here.
That carries over when they’re babies too. Babies are almost interchangeable. For a while, they do the same things, make the same noises, and look nearly identical. That’s why they give them little rock-n-roll festival bracelets in the hospital. It would take nothing to grab the wrong one. It used to happen in TV sitcoms all the time.
My son isn’t a hypothetical. He’s here. He is ten and has a personality that could fill this room. What he lacks in verbal communication, he makes up for in facial expressions, quirky traits, and loving embraces. He’s a human being like me and you. Just because he doesn’t speak or needs help in some areas that may have come easier to others doesn’t make him anything less.
So yeah, I love him because he’s mine. But I love him for so much more.
I love him because he lives his life in a way that I could never even imagine. He brings me happiness and joy during the most unexpected moments in the most unexpected ways. Because of his autism or perceived disabilities, he lacks a common filter that creates walls for other people.
For example, if I am upset about something, people around me might be able to read it in my face. They see the simmering scowl or hear the anguished tone. They might push me to discuss it when I don’t want to or ignore me altogether to give me “space” I never asked for. They react to me and in doing so, it can sometimes make it worse.
Lucas doesn’t do that. What will happen is something like what happened last week. While laying on the couch, annoyed, I stared at the wall and pondered my feelings. I was deep in my head when, out of nowhere, a hand touched my arm. I looked up and there he was, iPad in hand, staring at me with a huge grin.
What’s up, buddy?
I couldn’t help but smile as he, listening to the show he had been repeatedly starting and stopping on his device, double tapped my arm as if to say, “There ya go.” Then he screeched with joy, loudly clapped his hands, and hopped in the air. I laughed right along. It pulled me so far out of my hole and into the opposite direction. It was an act of kindness that was so far outside the box that no one else in my world would have ever done it in that same way.
He didn’t do this because he thought I needed a pick-me-up. He didn’t analyze my facial expression. He did it because Lucas, most of the time, is pure jubilation. He brings happiness into my life and a reminder of what happiness truly means into my heart. No one sees the world the way he does and, when I need it the most, there he is.
That’s more than “just being mine.” That’s a major attribute of my boy that only he has and brings to my life. It’s one of the many reasons why I love him. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s not a hypothetical that, to some, might sound like I’m reaching for a reason.
I want to make him as happy as he makes me and, for all our difficult moments, there are ten times more beautiful ones. I’m proud of the strides he’s made and the accomplishments he’s reached. But, above all else, I’m proud of the person he is. In a world where most people think that he should work to be more like everyone else, I feel like everyone else should work to be more like Lucas.
So, yeah. I love him because he’s mine. But, much more than that, I’m proud that he’s mine.
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