Some days, I see my son through the eyes of others. The people who don’t understand or love him like I do.
People see social awkwardness and random outbursts. They see someone who doesn’t fit in.
They see someone different.
But when I push aside the opinions of people who really don’t matter anyways, I see Nathan, my 13-year-old son with Asperger’s (high functioning autism) and I see who he truly is.
I see an amazing young man who has made me a better person in countless ways.
Here are just a few of the things my autistic son has taught me:
1. He’s taught me to be strong and resilient.
To say life is challenging with autism can be an understatement; it’s not an easy life.
We’re faced with allowing those challenges to consume us or they can refine us into stronger, better people.
Nathan has taught me to be strong.
Little ol’ me who used to be afraid of almost everything. I’ve had more weak moments than I could ever count.
But Nathan has taught me what it means to pick myself back up and keep moving forward.
I’m a stronger person because of my son.
2. He’s not afraid to be himself.
In a world where it’s often easier to blend in with the crowd, autism makes you stand out whether you like it or not.
Nathan has taught me how to stand up and be myself.
He’s taught me to not worry about fitting in with others because anyone worth being my friend will accept me for who I am.
While Nathan doesn’t have many friends at school, he doesn’t change who he is just so someone will like him.
I’m still working on this myself (I am a people-pleaser by nature), but I’m thankful I have a constant reminder of this amazing quality in my son.
3. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Nathan’s taught me not to be afraid to speak out.
I used to be very timid. I was afraid I might say the wrong thing at the wrong time. What if I looked stupid? I never raised my hand or spoke up.
But gradually, I’ve gained confidence in who I am and I’ve begun to realize that it is okay to have an opinion. I have my amazing son as an example for that!
When his teacher told a story of how she was a teenager and no one invited her to their house one summer, Nathan raised his hand and said, “At least you had SOME friends. I’ve NEVER been called and invited to someone’s house.”
(I would have loved to have been in the room to see his teacher’s reaction and that of the other kids.)
And yes, hearing that did break my heart into a million little pieces.
That brings me to my next point.
4. He doesn’t pity himself
Nathan wasn’t feeling sorry for himself as he told me the above story. He said it matter-of-factly as if it was just part of life.
That’s an incredible strength to have these days.
Sometimes, we want to throw a big fat pity party for ourselves and wallow in our misery.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling discouraged; we all do from time to time.
What’s important is to not dwell on those feelings forever; to pick yourself back up and march on.
That’s something I’ve learned from Nathan’s example.
5. He doesn’t give up.
I love how Nathan plows ahead in life and does his thing. Whether he’s focused on getting good grades in school or building a new redstone invention in his beloved Minecraft game, he gives it his all.
Nathan is tenacious. Even when he has a bad day, he gets back up and keeps going. He goes to school when he’s been bullied or after he’s had frustrating outbursts. I know it’s not easy for him, especially as he’s grown older and become more aware of the way others treat him. But he does not give up.
It’s a wonderful reminder for me when I have days where I feel like I’m failing at just about everything.
6. He’s not afraid to dream big.
Nathan has amazing dreams of doing BIG things. He wants to be a scientist and study geology and meteorology. He wants to invent things and make life better for others.
He’s even talked about researching autism and learning how and why it happens and how to better help people.
7. He’s taught me to appreciate the little things and look for the less obvious.
Kids, especially autistic kids, have a different way of looking at things that us jaded adults. They feel and see things differently.
If we learn to look through their eyes, instead of trying to force them to look through ours, we can see some amazing things.
Nathan, in particular, has shown me how to stop and look at the little things.
We’ll watch funny chicken videos together and laugh until we’re gasping for air because Nathan loves them. If it were just me, I would watch the video once and maybe chuckle. But with Nathan, we’ll watch it 3 or 4 or 5 times and laugh over and over!
Those are just a few of the many things my autistic son has taught me. I know he’ll continue to teach me more, probably more than I can ever teach him.
I am so blessed and fortunate to be his mom.