Do you remember the days before your child’s autism diagnosis? This is my story. When I read it, I don’t think “Oh, how sad, little did I know.” Instead, I think “Gosh, I miss my mom.”
Mom and I sat in the dining room table while Matthew napped, narrowing down responses to the ad I had placed in the paper.
“Wanted: Loving care for my three-month-old son, two days a week.”
We set up appointments for three respondents that afternoon, and two the next. “I hope you don’t mind,” said mom, “but I really want to see these women myself. I’m a good judge of character.”
She was a good judge of character, but I knew she had another motive. She had offered to take care of Matthew while I worked, but it would mean an hour’s drive two mornings and afternoons a week, and I worried that the commitment would be too much for her. I also worried that it would put a strain on our relationship.
“If I can’t watch him while you’re working, I’ll be worrying about him, so I might as well,” she argued, “and I’ll love every minute of it.”
“Let’s just see who’s out there,” I said. “You never know.”
But one by one Mom eliminated all of the candidates, some for obvious reasons—lack of personality and experience—and others for not-so-obvious reasons.
“Did you see her nails? Do you think a woman with perfect nails cares about anyone more than herself?” or “Behind that big smile is a mean woman.”
In the end, I relented and accepted her offer, but just for one day a week. The other day, I arranged for Matthew to stay with a mom in the neighborhood who had a son his age and a three-year-old daughter.
“But guess who she’ll go to first if they all need her at once,” Mom warned. “It won’t be Matthew.”
As always, Mom softened her barbs with good humor and encouragement. “Just think how fun it will be for me. Just think how much fun it will be for you when Matthew has children of his own!” and “It’s good for you to work a little bit. Be sure to keep some of the money you make just for yourself.”
Peter and I agreed that the best thing about working was coming home to Matthew. His whole body wiggled with joy when he saw us, and his smiles and gurgly laughter were contagious. In the evenings we took walks with him, first in the Snuggli, then in the stroller and the backpack. We smiled proudly when passersby gasped, “What a beautiful baby!” Once home, after we bathed Matthew and put him to bed, we poured through our baby book and compared their estimates of developmental milestones with his.
“They say ‘sits up by the end of month four.’ He was doing that by the end of month three!” I told Peter.
“It looks like he should be rolling over soon,” said Peter, turning the pages, “and then peek-a-boo the next month. Let’s try it now. . . . And then in month eight—”
With each month that passed, Matthew’s personality sparkled brighter—sunny like the blond hair that stood straight up, impish like his dimply smile, cuddly and warm like his beautiful brown eyes.
We were in love.
I will not tell you the moral of this story…you know it already.
To read more of my story, click here to order my book. Great gift in case there are any holidays or birthdays coming.