Image is a photo of Brooke, me and Katie on the beach in S’conset, 2008. They are 5 and 7.
So it turns out that the post that I set out to write this morning is far too big to wrangle into the 45 minutes I’d allotted to write it. I tried hard to wrestle that sucker to the ground, but it wasn’t going willingly, so it will have to wait.
In the meantime, I came across this picture this morning and it set my mind reeling. It was my first profile picture on Twitter. If I’m not mistaken, it was the summer of 2008 and the girls were 5 and 7. My time is, as it always seems to be, limited. So what follows is unedited. Godspeed.
I thought I knew so much then.
I felt like I knew nothing.
I was hopeful.
I was paralyzed with fear.
I was joyful.
I was despairing.
I prayed for the future.
I was terrified that it would come.
I wish that I could go back and tell that woman in the picture to believe ….
Not only that what she thinks might be possible is, but that what she fears impossible isn’t.
I want to tell her to have Faith. In her kids, in herself, in something far bigger than all of them.
To believe that they all have far greater imaginations than she.
That there is always so much more than she can see.
I want to tell her that six years is a long, long time.
And that it will pass in the blink of an eye.
And that it will be okay.
It really, truly will.
And that the parts that aren’t okay won’t be okay YET.
And that she will, improbably, have grown to be pretty okay with that.
I want to tell her that Brooke made her own breakfast this weekend. That she’s had not one but TWO sleepovers with friends. Real friends. That those friends are autistic too and that it’s awesome and beautiful and not at all what she thought friendship was “supposed to” be, but so very, very much more.
I want to tell her that she’s funny and bright and yes, still challenged by a world that doesn’t always fit, but happy. That she really, truly is happy. I want to tell her that she says things like, “Totally,” and “I remember it clearly,” and asks questions. That she wants to know what words mean and that she asks, “Why?”
I want her to know that she’s taking it all in. Even when — especially when — it appears that she’s not.
I know she’ll find it hard to believe. But that’s why I want her to know. I want her to believe in believing. I want her to know that Faith itself is to become her religion.
I want to tell her that the road won’t be easy, but that nothing worthwhile ever is.
I want to tell her to drop her defenses. That every brand of parenting is hard. That everyone’s challenges are different but that everyone has them.
I want to tell her that Katie will continue to grow into herself. That everything that she adores about her will only get bigger – her heart, her generosity, her curiosity, her creativity. I want to tell her that someday she’ll say to her, “You know, it’s not easy having an autistic sister – not even a little, but sometimes I think that having an NT sibling might be even harder in some ways.”
I want to tell her to stop feeling guilty.
I want to tell her that she’s doing all right.
I want to tell her that she and Luau are doing all right too.
I want to tell her that the terrifying statistic that 85% of autism marriages fail is made up. Yup, complete and utter bunk.
I want to tell her not to stop taking care of herself too. I want to tell her that I mean it, cause she’s going to screw the pooch on that one.
I want to tell her that the pride and the joy on her face in that picture will still be there six years later. That it will be deeper, richer, more nuanced then.
I want to tell her that this what she will someday soon have to say about six years ..
Because no one – NO ONE – has a right to take away hope. Not from you, not from your girl, not from any one of us who happens not to fit the mold. No one can look at your sixth-grader – or any sixth-grader –and tell you that “She’s not the kind of girl who will go the prom. It’s just not possible.”
Do you hear that? It’s God laughing at those with so little imagination as to cling to nothing but their lack of faith. I’ll show you possible, He says. And every day, He does. Again and again.
When Brooke was three years old, she was diagnosed with autism. Upon delivering the diagnosis, the neuropsych who had evaluated her looked into her crystal ball and told us that our daughter would never be comfortable around people. She told us that she would tend to eschew the company of others. That she would live alone. That she would always prefer solitude.
Every day since, Brooke — not us, Brooke — has shown us not just the wild inaccuracy, but the abject absurdity of that prognosis. And time and again we have been reminded of the peril of what might have happened had we believed it.
Six years later, my daughter LOVES to be around people. It’ s not always easy, and her interaction with them sure as hell isn’t always the one that society prescribes, but she adores company. When given the choice of a private gymnastics lesson vs. a class last month, she chose the class. Her favorite day of the school week is the day on which she has chorus and can sing in a group. She invited every girl in her class – plus a few – to her birthday party. When Katie and I returned from our night away this weekend, the very first words out of her mouth were, “I missed you.”
Because she didn’t have the skills to interact the way that the doctor expected her to, it was easier for her to assume that she didn’t want to interact. Easier, but not accurate.
Six years later, the good doctor would not be making the same mistake upon meeting our girl again, should she be blessed with the opportunity to do so. (She won’t.)
Now, I’m not real good at math, but I’ve added it all up and carried the one and I’m pretty sure that twelfth grade minus sixth grade equals six years. Now ain’t that something?
Six years for your daughter to show you the absurdity of trying to predict her future. Six years for her to prove to you the insanity of extinguishing hope.
Yes, I want to tell her that six years later, she believes.
That her babies are safe and healthy and happy.
And that life — messy, challenged, glorious, beautiful life — is pretty damned good.