Come here, Jack-a-boo. Sit next to me on the couch.
You can look through the DVD’s in just a minute. Yes, I know The Mummy is three minutes longer than Cool Runnings.
For now, please, sit with me.
See, I’ve been thinking lately about promises. You know, like how I promised that we would go to the pool and swim but then it rained and I had to tell you we couldn’t go, and you were very mad at me? You told me over and over it is okay to swim in the rain.
For I will already. Be wet.
The thing is, buddy, there is so much I want to promise you.
I wish I could promise you every person in the whole big world will see you and know you and love you like I do.
I wish I could promise that I’ll be around forever.
I want to promise you a high school diploma, and a chance to drive your own car.
I want to promise you that you will one day fall in love, and maybe have a good job, and take a vacation with your friends.
As of right this minute, you have no friends. There is not a single person you call, or invite over to the house, or even mention.
I think its safe to say I can’t promise you any of these things.
I can, however, make other promises.
Jack, I promise to see you more for who you are, rather than what you have.
It’s not like I’m going to forget you have autism or anything. I mean, I’ll still notice the swimming and the way you need routine. I’ll still gently nudge your fingers away from your face when you started to pull on your lashes or twist pieces of your hair.
But I won’t let it eclipse the boy within the diagnosis.
I promise to tell everyone I know about you. I will tell your story. See, you are not a secret.
Autism is not a secret.
I promise to remember I am not your teacher, or your occupational therapist, or your speech pathologist.
I am not your counselor, or your bus driver, or your case manager.
I am your mother.
As your mother, I promise not to make every second of our waking day about progress, and learning.
Sure, I’ll insist you read for ten minutes and I’ll show you how to change the shower curtain and flip an egg in a hot pan.
But I’ll laugh with you when the egg breaks.
I promise to help change the way people think about autism. I will help them see you as I see you: rigid and funny and smart and anxious and sometimes sweet but always interesting.
I will put myself in your shoes—and your body and your heart and your brain—as often as possible.
I promise to teach you how to fold towels, and clean the kitchen, and change a light bulb, and put gas in the car.
I will take you everywhere—museums and planetariums and boat rides and the farmer’s market. I won’t care little bit if people stare at us.
And people do stare. I know you see it. I know you know. But, listen, buddy, the staring is a good thing.
Once they stare, or listen, or look, we’ve got their attention. We can tell them all about you and your autism and how when you were two you figured out how to start a car.
Remember that? You snuck into the garage when I wasn’t looking.
And the next time they see a boy or a girl who hops and flaps, they will remember you. They will see you turning the key with your chubby 2-year old fingers, and they will hear the engine roar to life. And they will be kind.
This is our job. To create kindness when judgment may otherwise prevail.
I promise to be your advocate, your champion, your truth-teller, and your voice—even if it means sharing the starting-the-car story one hundred million times.
Autism is not a secret.
You are not a secret.
I promise to keep up with yoga, and run on the treadmill, and get annual mammograms. I may not live forever, but I don’t want to leave you any sooner than I have to.
I promise to learn from my mistakes.
I have made so many mistakes.
I have screamed, and snarled, and cried.
I have worried, and wept, and raged.
I am trying.
Few people know what it’s like to love someone like you.
I love you the best way I know how.
My love for you is flawed, and pure, and real, and honest, and loud. Its like thunder and sunshine all mixed up together.
From now on, I will accept what you can give, whether it’s a stiff one-arm hug, the occasional eye contact, or the chance belly laugh.
I know you are trying, too.
That doesn’t mean I won’t push you to do more. Oh, I always want you to do more.
I want you to reach for the sky, my little Jack-bird. I want you to look right up into the clouds and decide you want to fly.
Come here, sit a little closer. I know, I know. You don’t want me to touch you or put my arm around your shoulders. I won’t.
But I want to tell you something. Let me whisper to you quietly.
I hate that you have to go to school all year.
I hate it but I can’t tell you I hate it because I told you have to go and if I admit that it’s hard for me too, then my thin veneer of resolution might crack and shatter.
The thing is, I miss you during the day.
All day long, you are missing.
You are missing until 2:45 when the bus/minivan stops at the end of the driveway and you get out, all long legs and gangly arms and scowling face.
When this happens, life begins again. I am thrust back into the throes of autism—of schedule-planning and car-key-hiding and general uncertainty.
I love it. I really do.
But sometimes I hate it a little bit, too.
Sunshine and rain.
Storm clouds and rainbows.
I promise to let you challenge conventional thinking.
I wish I was half the person you are.
I am lucky to know you.
I am happy you are my son.
I am your mother.
I will help you fly.
Unless you’d rather swim.