To my boys:
It’s December. When I was a little boy I remember December being absolutely magical as it’s the month that houses both Christmas and my birthday. I recall the days leading up to the festivities, being excited and feeling the building anticipation.
The snow on the ground, the Christmas decorations and potential school closings would add to the sense of wonder that surrounded the whole season. “Would I get to shovel snow in the morning?” That was seriously a question I would think on the regular. If that isn’t an indicator of childhood wonder, I don’t know what is.
I was a typical, happy excited little boy.
D, some of the most difficult aspects of autism have been in relation to thinking about my experiences as a little boy. You just turned four years old which is right around when my first solid memories are from.
You’ve never unwrapped a gift. You’ve never expressed joy or surprise at anything holiday related. You don’t grasp the notion of Santa or birthdays. You’ve never woken up in the morning needing to rush out of bed to check what gifts had been left under the tree.
I’ve often found myself wondering if you’ll ever “get” Christmas, or Santa, or the unwrapping of gifts. Will you ever experience that same sense of excitement and wonder that I did as a little boy? These lead to further questions and “what ifs” and what it always comes down to is that I don’t know. It’s the “what ifs” and “I don’t knows” in life that have always gotten under my skin.
Over the years I’ve lost that sense of magic this time of year used to captivate me with. I stopped celebrating my birthday many calendars ago. Christmas stopped being a time of enchantment. It was turned in to one of stress and focusing on logistics of getting to the family gathering, loading and unloading the car, what to bring and on and on. I don’t even enjoy shoveling snow anymore. At all.
All that is beginning to change. S, you are two now. Just the other day when we woke up and you took my hand to go down the stairs together to get your yogurt out of the fridge. You walked over to the couch, crawled up, looked out the window and said, “White snow”. Two simple syllables.
It had just snowed the night before. The look in your eyes took me back to being that little boy again. You were filled with that same sense of wonder I remember and can still feel.
You looked over at me to share that moment and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. You’re becoming more and more aware all the time. Many of the things you do every day, I have never experienced with your big brother. Sharing that moment with me was so incredibly special, I struggle to put it in words.
Both of you boys love numbers, letters, shapes and colors. You are into similar videos, movies and music. A perfect stranger can tell you guys are brothers just with a glance. It is your differences, boys, that strike me with the most force.
D, all the milestones you didn’t hit, all the words you didn’t speak, the moments we didn’t share and the things you didn’t do have weighed on me pretty heavily at times.
S, when you have simply done all these things on time or ahead of schedule without months of OT or speech therapy it has been nothing short of mind blowing every single time.
The juxtaposition between you two boys is a gift I didn’t expect. Watching the two of you grow and develop side by side is a joy I couldn’t possibly understand before. D, you do things your own way, on your own timeline, and on your own terms. S, you basically do the same, just very differently than your brother. The combination of the both of you has given life such beauty and incredible joy and I am forever grateful for that.
You guys and your mom have made this time of year feel pretty great again. S, watching you so carefully explore the Christmas tree is fascinating and so sweet. D, I sometimes think that you don’t want us to see your curiosity with the tree but I know it’s there.
D, I returned home from work the other night and mommy told me that you were looking at the neighbor’s Christmas lights outside. She said that you were sitting there, looking out the window just captivated. “Just like any other four year old boy.”
That last line…that really got me. Seeing moments like that from you, little boy (and they’re happening increasingly often) make all our OT and speech appointments worth it. Seeing you have genuine curiosity about the tree and lights eases some of those “what ifs” and “I don’t knows” for me. They don’t go away completely because we simply don’t know what the future holds, but it validates everything for me and tells me we’re on the right track.
Boys, thank you for simultaneously being the biggest source of grey hairs and fountain of youth in my life! I love you guys, so big much.