Updated: Jan 11
“All I want to hear is ‘I love you Mommy,’” she said with her eyes reddening with tears. It had been 6 years of countless therapists coming in and out of their home, tens of different techniques, and buckets of tears along the way. And although his hugs clearly showed his heart, this mom was grieving; grieving the mother-son connection, she thought she’d have by now, the affection she yearned for year after year, as she waited patiently for those three words to blossom.
Now, she contemplated that maybe, she would have to settle for the message delivered by way of a hug, as they expressed routinely each night after night. And thank goodness for that. For she reminded herself that other parents had it much worse; that she should be happy that he speaks at all. But no matter how often she reminded herself to be thankful, there was just a little bit of sadness that would always creep back in, as if to say, “wait, but this wasn’t how I hoped it would be.” And then the grief would settle in again, followed by guilt, and overwhelmed by heartache.
Oh how my heart aches for her, and all the other parents I’ve encountered over the years. I feel deeply sorry for them, and somewhat guilty for having my own three neurotypical children at home. I cry with these parents, as they share their experiences. I want so badly for them to experience that loving connection, the “Mommy’s and Daddy’s” and the “I love you’s.” Their eyes evidence such pain, exhaustion, overwhelm, and sorrow…masked by positive attitudes attempting to pull themselves along one day at a time; one therapy session at a time.
They’ve been robbed, you see. Robbed of the promised parenting narrative that portrays a mommy and daddy raising a child with joy, affection, playfulness, and silly conversations. One where the hardest days are when their child throws a tantrum over wanting dessert instead of dinner or whines all day as he fights off a virus… you know, the normal “hard” days. This is not that story. Families like this fight for every single moment of normalcy they can find, shrouded by sensory meltdowns, miscommunications, self-injurious behaviors, socially unacceptable outbursts, or social awkwardness. This family hangs on to every gesture, eye gaze, vocalization and smile; holding their breath with anxious panic every time their child stares off at the corner of the room, distant for just a moment, but disconnected for what seems like a lifetime. They watch as their child explores his surroundings seemingly uninterested in the people around him, praying that they be needed somehow or invited to participate in his world.
Question...can you relate?