He’s running. I’m chasing. The ocean is in view, and there is no stopping him. A few glances back reveal his enormous grin, his pure joy. High pitched squeals of delight escape his lungs. I have to keep a close distance or we will both be taking a swim in the icy Pacific. There’s no fear in his eyes. No worry. No doubt. He sees what he wants, and he’s determined.
He is brave.
Paralyzing doubt is not something I had ever had to experience. After Z’s diagnosis, I immediately sought out every book, blog, diet, and internet conspiracy I could get my hands on. Fueled by success stories, I was convinced I had control. I thought this was what it meant to be brave. But, I was misguided by fear. Fear of life with a child who may never speak.
I read an article by a famous mother of a child with autism who wrote that she cried her eyes out the day her son was diagnosed and then vowed to never let herself cry over it ever again. I was dumbfounded by this. Her article was meant to uplift and encourage but instead left me flat out depressed and guilty. I was overwhelmed. I cried all the time. And I felt awful for it. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be like those ‘warrior’ moms?
“I’m just not brave enough.”
Parents of children who experience Autism are expected to be brave, but only in the way that society tells us to be. I believed this lie that being brave meant stifling all my fears and feelings. We have to be strong and positive and happy at all times. And if we’re not? Well, then the world tells us how ungrateful we are, how we are burdening our children. Ultimately, it tells us that we are weak and cowardly.
I’ve finally been able to realize that this is not what it means to be brave.
I’m brave when I tell the raw truth, when I say that I don’t have this all figured out. I’m brave when I say I am angry that my baby boy has to go through so many trials. I’m brave when I admit my fears that he may never be able to live on his own or may never speak. I’m brave when I accept every bit of him just as he is.
It doesn’t look like the traditional way to be brave. But it’s real. And honest. It’s my story of growth as a mother and a woman; finding my voice and roaring like a lioness to all that will listen.
One day, I want to be brave like Z when he’s chasing waves. I want to be fearless like him. I want to squeal with delight. And everyday that I work through my version of being brave, I get one step closer to his.
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