A couple of years after my daughter was diagnosed with autism, a well-meaning acquaintance said to me, “God must think you very strong.” It was one of those comments you wish the person hadn’t said. I understood they meant well, I understood it was some sort of convoluted compliment, I understood they meant to be something like supportive, but it felt awful. Least of all because I have never gained any solace from the existence or non-existence of the G-word, but mostly because of its obvious prejudice to those who are Autistic. The person then followed that sentence with this next one, which was like a second jab to the solar plexus. “I could never handle an Autistic child.” I stood there in stunned silence.
At the time I think I probably looked away and tried to untangle the multitude of feelings that surged through me. But today, now years later, I have a couple of things I want to say. Let me tell you about my beautiful, perfectly wonderful, very human, child. She is like the sunlight that glimmers off the leaves of an Aspen tree. She is that first ripple that appears on a crystal clear lake, extending outward in ever-widening arcs. She is the sound of rain on fallen autumn leaves, she is the smell of sage brush after an electrical storm, she is the glimmer of morning sunlight when it first appears rising up over snow capped mountains, she is imperfectly perfect and a gift and yes, a blessing. And if I’m going to be completely, utterly selfish, I must say this: she has taught me more in her short eleven years of existence than any book, spiritual leader, graduate class, academic study or person I’ve ever read, listened to or met.
I know Emma’s life will have challenges because of her specific neurology. I know she will often have to fight harder, prove herself more often, work more doggedly and persistently than her non Autistic peers to accomplish things that many do not even consider accomplishments, but assume are a given. Yet there are some things she can do and will learn to do that will be easier for her than many of her non Autistic peers. I no longer see autism as a road block, but more as a different road all together.
Every morning I wake up filled with gratitude for my family. But it is my daughter, my beautiful, beautiful daughter who has introduced me to a world I never knew existed. A world that is beyond anything I could have imagined, a world filled with other Autistic people who enhance my life and the world on a daily basis because of their existence. Emma has taught me the true meaning of gratitude. She impacts my life in ways I will never be able to fully describe or express. Gifts are like that. Strength has nothing to do with receiving gifts. It does not require strength to see the good in others. It does not require anything actually.
That is another lesson my daughter has taught me – the beauty in being.
Em testing out her new pogo stick. Her record? 62 bounces.
- Reflection (whereartandlifemeet.com – Ariane’s other blog)
And to this, I share a loud AMEN! We continue to grow and learn from Jenn. Never ending, sometimes rough, but we have been/are blessed by her thoughts and heart each day. We are most grateful.
Loved the photo of you and Jim almost 50 years ago!
I awakened this morning with your enlightening words about life’s ultimate beauty. How truly fortunate we are! Have a wonder filled time in Syracuse.
Thank you Dianne. One of these days our paths will cross!
Thank you so much for the Anne Donnellan book. Just received today and will begin reading immediately! You are so thoughtful to send!!
“She is like the sunlight that glimmers off the leaves of an Aspen tree.”
What an apt description of the wonderful, bouncing, laughing whirlwind that is our Emma. She has changed my way of looking at everything and taught me entirely new and improved definitions of joy, love, compassion, beauty and acceptance. Emma is the Zen of beauty in being.
You are very fortunate to realize all this Ariane and Richard. Unfortunately a lot of people go through life not seeing the beauty that surrounds them. I am glad Emma is there to teach you.
I adore this post!!
The ignorant and rash comments of others. The prejudice and assumptive comments are the hardest to hear. But I have to remind myself that not all of us are fortunate enough to have an Emma or my Cali in their life. You are right…they open our eyes to see an existing but hidden world. A world that goes hidden bc too often we see the world as we are and not as it really is. Can you imagine how beautiful the world would be if everyone saw the beauty in being despite a person’s neurology!! I’m sure you can!!
amazing and beautiful post! my daughter as well 🙂 amazing angels come to teach us endless lessons and loving and joy in being without saying a word 😉 I have 2, boy and girl, have been given the line “how do you do it?” many times haha you are bringing out the awareness of what this really is …blessings ❤
I no people say the dumbest things it like Beter to say nothing then sound ingorent
Ariane, if you have not had an opportunity to read books by Donna Williams, I strongly urge you to do so. You will glean so much information from her along with her story. She is lovely.
I have read ALL (I think) of Donna Williams’ books! Though I’ve never met her.
First, let me say that your daughter is so beautiful just like her mother. I enjoyed reading your story, and I believe that even when life seems to bring us down, we have to appear like everything is in life is perfect. Your story is amazing, and I thank you for sharing. God bless.
62 bounces, Bravo Emma!
I was able to jump exactly twice before falling off and practically twisting an ankle. 🙂
*Wipes away tears while still reading*
I could write a book on the comments I’ve received, but my reply to the God one is always “God can kiss my ass!” (What can I say, I like to shock Bible thumpers, lol!)
My comeback isn’t meant as a retort for not being given the perfect child. Rather, it is to shock well meaning people into realizing what they are saying. MY CHILD IS STANDING RIGHT HERE!! How dare you imply that she is somehow less than? What’s more, how dare you imply my strengths or weaknesses? I don’t GAF who thinks I’m “strong” or not. I’ve never said to another parent – “Damn, your kid is a real @sshole. God must think you’re really strong!” (Rolls eyes)
My sweet girl is who she is. And we can’t imagine life without her, so WTF? Why do people say things like this?
(Sorry, Ariane, this just touches a nerve with me. Especially as it’s usually total strangers who make the comment!)
I like GAF Ang. I put an extra F in there for “flying” without realizing it until I read it again just now!
And you’re right, it IS almost always total strangers who say these kinds of things. When Richard gets comments like this, he responds with, “You’re really lucky my wife isn’t here to hear you say that.” And then he walks away.
Rock on Angie. And Ariane. And Richard. And Emma, 62! W00t. I am actually a fan of God and for me this kind of statement is offensive in another direction too b/c really? God is a h8r and plans things out all weird-sick what? No. People who don’t want to hear about God: don’t push it on them; and people who do are probably aware that God loves all children…. So basically whatever they just said is offensive NO MATTER WHAT– maybe if they think before they speak next time?
Lol, that’s me, the terrible potty mouth. Us two put together would probably sound like a couple of drunken sailors! 😉
I hope you check my facebook page often because almost every single one of your posts make their way there. Another lovely piece!
*Running to check out Renee’s Facebook page*
Just discovered this post and wanted to say a huge YAY!!
I couldn’t begin to list the amazing, subtle, wonderful things I’ve learned from the young people on the autistic spectrum who have graced my life, and I feel blessed and honoured to have known them all.
Thanks so much for commenting, Jan!
Em is a teacher, one of our world’s best. true b