Thursday, May 17, 2007

What Would I Change?

Tonight I walked Poppy to a friend's house to deliver eggs. This friend is a new friend, one of those charming and lovely people that we all wish we could be because she's so thoughtful and positive. She and I started talking about autism. Families of children with autism and children that we've known and worked with. She remarked that by now on my journey with our lovely lady with autism I've probably got a lot to teach other parents.

"Yeah, what not to do!" I laughed. Compliments make me uncomfortable.

"What would you do differently?" she asked. That's what I like about her. She asks real questions, and she really wants to know.

I forget what I said except that it's hard to second-guess, and then told her some stories about lovely lady when she was little. But I kept thinking about her question.

Maybe, if I could go back, I would worry less and enjoy my daughter more. Her early life was filled with therapies-- intensive one-to-one tutoring followed by three hours of preschool, a play therapy program at home, gymnastics classes and play dates. I don't regret the time or the therapies, but my mind was filled with therapy details. Planning for meetings and hiring tutors and teaching her myself and trying vitamins and making phone calls and reading message boards and gathering information. Worrying, and trying to do whatever I thought might help her.

Then I second-guess my answer. I wouldn't change any of the therapies or activities, any of the things we did back then. So, what if I had worried less? I know that the worry, the fear of the unknown future and of my daughter's diagnosis motivated me to read, to research, to return to school, to throw my time and energy into filling her time with tutoring and therapies. Maybe we would have missed too many of those teachable moments and my lovely lady would be a different child today. Or maybe not. Maybe she would have come through shining and having faith that her own quirky self is exactly enough because we just let her be.

Who knows?

Instead, if I could go back in time, I wish I'd had the perspective then that I have now. Confidence that life is good. Faith that God will give me what I need. Knowledge that I've got the strength and love and courage to see my lovely lady through whatever our lives together bring to us. Maybe with that kind of knowledge I wouldn't have made as many mistakes. But the only way to gain that kind of perspective is to walk the path. What it all comes down to is trust. As parents we have to trust our instincts and trust the path we've been given. Do what's right for our children. Forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.

And, instead of laughing it off with a silly joke, say "Thank you" and mean it when someone gives us a sincere compliment.

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