Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder who you are.
Or who you might have been.
I wonder why you, out of all my children, were given autism’s complicated genetic twist.
Not a day goes by when I don’t try to think of ways to explain you to every person we know, and many we don’t.
And when I’m not explaining, I’m showing you.
I show you the difference between you, and the idea of normal. Constantly, I tell you how you should look and feel and think and act, as opposed to who you really are.
Jack, buddy, we aren’t talking about Disney movies right now. It’s time to talk about something else.
Deep way down in my spirit, I am ashamed of this.
Who you are is enough. Please know this.
Yet at the same time, I act as though it’s not.
Not a day goes by when I don’t try to stamp out every single thing that makes you happy.
I don’t have time to look at your list of soda.
Buddy, I don’t care about the Christmas decorations. It’s not even December yet.
Please, stop jumping.
Not a day goes by when I don’t try to figure out how to make you happy—how to make you chuckle, or smile, or even laugh out loud from the bottom of your belly.
You haven’t laughed like that in months. Since July, in fact. I know this because we were sitting in the car waiting for a refill on your prescription, and you said you loved the song on the radio and I started to sing it in a loud, silly voice.
You laughed. You laughed long and hard, the kind of laugh where you bend at the waist and wipe your eyes.
My word, to hear you laugh. How it lit my heart anew.
The sun was bright and yellow in the sky that day.
My son never laughs.
He rarely smiles.
He’s always in distress.
I said this to someone I know. I said, listen, my son has no joy in life.
And this very nice wise person told me, well, imagine everyone in your life was always stamping out the things that made you happy. Imagine how hard it would be to feel joy.
Right away, I pictured myself telling you no about the decorations, and no about Cinnamon Coke, and no about the way you move your body.
No no no no no.
All I say is no.
“What if you took fifteen minutes a day, and just sat with him in his space, and let him talk about the things he likes and move his body. Maybe then he can begin to access joy.”
Jack-a-boo, I don’t know what you call this. A light bulb moment? An awakening? The big a-ha?
Listen, sometimes life hands you extraordinary people—people who look at all your pain and your regret and your guilt, and bundle it into something else entirely. They bundle it into hope, and forgiveness, and bright yellow sunlight.
I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to change you all the time.
I thought it was right to change the very essence of who you are.
Maybe it is.
Maybe it isn’t.
Maybe it’s not as simple as right and wrong, or will or will not.
Nothing is simple when it comes to autism.
Can I do that? Can I help you access joy?
Can I sit for fifteen minutes and listen to everything you have to say and jump alongside you and plan holidays months in advance?
Yes. I can. I will.
“You can call it Jack’s Time.”
Your time to be just yourself and only yourself and not work on regulation or keeping your body still or having the right conversation or reading facial expressions or laboring through difficult social cues.
There are I,440 minutes in a day.
I thought I was doing the right thing.
Jack, I am here.
I am here with you.
Tell me. Tell me everything.
What is your favorite kind of soda?
How does your body feel?
You know what, buddy? Let’s go into the basement and take out a few ornaments.
I love you.
I love who you are, and who you might have been, and who you will be.
I love you, my Jack-a-boo.
You are enough.