When I met you 3 1/2 years ago I was so scared of you. I can remember driving home from the doctor’s office with my little girl fastened tighter in her car-seat than she had ever been. My need to protect her had just tripled. There were several times that I thought I might need to pull over and catch my breath but I was desperate to get home and snuggle up with my little Justin.
I was so mad at you for thinking you could be part of her life.
She’s mine, not yours.
We never invited you.
Where did you come from?
My mind was racing through the rest of her life and I began to sob.
Were you going to steal her childhood? The fear of her never having a best friend made my chest hurt and I thought that I might truly burst.
Was anyone ever going to want to marry her?
What about kids?
Were you going to take that dream from her?
My hate for you had begun so small minutes ago in that office and had already grown to fill my entire body.
Are the kids going to tease her in school?
What about her teachers.
Would they ever really understand my little girl?
Panic set in and I started to think about homeschooling. You would be there with us too but in my own home I could protect her from you.
Breath. Slow down. Focus. Rise Above.
That was years ago and I’m over any fear I ever had. I’ve watched my daughter face you with a grace that you could never posses.
Do you remember the spoons? I’m sure you’ve tried to forget.
I haven’t. I cherish it.
She held a spoon for four days straight and became obsessed with it. We found spoons hidden under her crib and she even took one to show and tell at school.
It was awesome
I know that you were trying to take her down, confuse us and control her.
She rocked show and tell that day. The kids clapped for her and asked to see her spoon. Her teacher let her proudly stand in front of the class and tell all about that shiny silver spoon.
You lost. She won.
And what about those earphones. You thought you had us there didn’t you?
You made her curl into a ball under her desk and cry because her ears hurt. You made her scared to go to school because it was too loud.
So we got the earphones.
My husband and I stayed up all night worrying about her going to school with those on. We gave long speeches to her sisters about the need to protect and comfort her. The thought of her being made fun of was almost too much to carry.
She pranced into school that day with her head held high. Her ears didn’t hurt and she wasn’t scared. She didn’t care what she looked like, she was happy. The kids even thought she was cool. And even though I don’t like jealousy, this was a moment that I cherished it. The other kids were a little jealous that they didn’t have bright orange earphone. Score one for Justin.
You lost again.
Today kicks off Autism Awareness Month and I want to make a few things clear.
We’re not celebrating you.
We’re celebrating our friends and family that fearlessly face you each and every day.
We’re celebrating our children who have challenges that others can’t see.
You are the invisible special needs that takes extreme patience to understand and overcome.
I’m good with that.
I’m not scared anymore.
You don’t have my little girl.
My little girl has you.
You’re going to be the one that’s scared when she walks into a room. You’re going to be the one that curls up under a desk and cries.
You should be scared.
You should be nervous.
You should be intimated.
My Justin is not going to cave to you and this family will make sure of it. Her teachers will make sure that you never hold her back. Her sisters will make sure that she always has friends.
My little Justin may never get married. She may never have children. She may never have a best friend outside of her sisters. She may never play a group sport or be the lead in the school play. I can guarantee that she won’t be in the school band or ever watch a sporting event that involves buzzers.
I’m at peace with all of that.
She will dance by herself with complete abandonment without a single care of who is watching. She will write a story about me that is so precious it could only come from an angels heart.
She will lay completely still beside me during snuggle time and pray out loud for it to never end.
She will read beyond her level.
She will out smart the rest of us.
She will exceed all of my expectations and crush all of my fears.
Good luck this month Autism. You’re going to need it.
Today is the first day of April. All month there will be a focus on autism awareness but for me and my family it is an everyday thing, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
That doesn’t make me sad.
I’m proud of my little girl and wish I could see more of her world than the little pieces I get to see.
I wish that everyone could see the beauty through her eyes.
I’m proud of my family and what we have faced, graced and overcome.
I’m proud of my other daughters who have stepped up and shown compassion and understanding in a way that I wouldn’t even expect from adults.
So, when you see us out and there’s a little girl at our side with mismatched gloves and a pair of bright orange hunting earphones on singing out loud, completely out of tune, don’t look at us with sad eyes as if to say “I’m sorry”. Instead, join in. Sing along. Dance your heart out and become a part of Team Justin.