Sean started a gymnastics program. He won’t let his brother or me come watch him yet. Only Daddy. He has a lesson every Friday for forty-five minutes. My husband told me he is good. It’s no surprise. Sean has some big deficits but on the flipside he has some great strengths. One is Sean’s agility, strength and power. He is small but he is mighty.
A year ago, I stumbled across gymnastics rings at Ikea. I bought them and had them installed in the basement ceiling. Sean loves the rings and plays on them daily. He is magical on them -- his muscles bubbling and his laughter echoing as he swings and climbs and knots his arms and legs together. -- a mini Cirque-de-Soleil performance. He spins through space, the basement air turning windy against his ears.
When my kids were small and the diagnosis “autism” was not part of our lexicon, I had let myself dream of what my boys might become -- what they would make of themselves. But after living more of this life, I have come to let go of those ideas and wonders. Because in the end, what we want most for our children, is to see them happy and peaceful.
When I would observe Sean in occupational therapy or social skills groups I would watch him through eyes of a therapist -- clinical and observant. Is he being appropriate? Is he responding? Is he regulated? It was exhausting, really. Forty-five minutes of running and swinging and throwing bean bags and I’d be rushing through a checklists in my mind. Had I forgotten to see the little boy’s tender smile, his lips peel into laughter, his eyes shining with excitement or was I too busy looking for clinical and critical responses, forgetting that sometimes the most important thing we fail to notice is subtle delight glowing in our children’s faces.
Some days I just want to see my child content. That’s all. I don’t want to analyze or discuss or interpret. I just want to see him joyful and see it for what it is. Nothing further. I don’t want him to feel the pressure either -- to see me in the corner sitting in a folding chair, arms crossed and face edged in worry. I want him to know that he is loved for the boy he is -- not the boy that he is “supposed” to be or should have been “if not for the autism“. I want him the way he is, spinning in his rings, his delicate, pale eyelids shut tight, and his beautiful smile spreading softly like angel wings.
Sean has autism. It is not who he is. He is a boy first. My boy who works so incredibly hard to feel a part of this difficult world-- to somehow fit in. And hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Sam Smiles Project
1 month ago