“But I’m not too keen to celebrate his birthday,” she responded.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Actually, I don’t like to celebrate his or my birthday. I’m growing older and he’s…”
I listened expectantly.
“First I waited till he was 3, then 5 and now he’s 7.”
And I could hear the unspoken words, “But he has not recovered yet.”
I understood her pain. “I know how you feel.”
She started to explain, “I know changes can happen at any age. And he is changing. It’s just that… “
“It’s just that you didn’t expect it to go this way.” I finished.
When she spoke, I pictured a young Kamini. I saw her praying fervently for a little Mohit on his birthday. “Oh God. Please make him well. It’s my only wish. I promise I won’t ask for anything else my entire life. Just make my son well.”
I didn’t share any of this with her. Instead, I told her about my daughter, Tanya. She left to go back to college last night. One of our last conversations was about the sandals she was leaving behind.
We dropped her off with a heavy heart. As soon as we reached home, I went into her bedroom to look at her sandals. She was here just a couple of hours ago. And then she wasn’t.
I spent some time in her room alone. It was strangely empty. I could hear her laughter. I could smell her perfume. I could see the golden highlights in her hair as she flicked it back. She left behind a bag full of photos.
Beautiful memories of times gone by when both my kids were little.
Of Anil when he had a lot more hair.
Of me, when I had all those curls in my hair…..
Life goes by. Memories remain.
No matter how much we want to, we can’t go back in time. The best tribute to life is to live it fully – in the present. The way to live it wisely is to adorn it with gratitude, love and acceptance.
The mother messaged back a couple of days later, with beautiful pictures of her son’s birthday celebrations. He had a big smile on his face as he cut his fancy birthday cake. Both parents looked radiant and joyful.
Dear Fellow Parent,
You’re doing a tremendous job of being a parent, especially if you’re a parent of a child with special needs.
My children are both adults. One is autistic and the other is neurotypical. Even today, I remind myself of three crucial points.
1. It’s alright to feel low
The only place where people are happy all the time and have perfect lives is Facebook. It’s natural to feel low at times. Accept those phases.
Do you know what I tell myself when I’m down and out? “You have one day to feel bad for yourself. Feel as sad, depressed and victimized as you want. Cry if you need to. But after the day is over, you’re going to wake up and smile again. That’s it. No arguments.”
Feel it and let it go.
2. Make each day count
Life consists of precious moments. Be present. Enjoy those little celebrations. Before you know it your children will have grown up. You’ll be left with memories of days gone by.
If you feel your child doesn’t ‘understand’ or it doesn’t matter to him, you’re mistaken. People with autism understand everything. They may be unable to express it. They have needs and emotions just like everybody else.
3. Measure success by how much you’ve changed
We tend to focus on our children. How much has he improved? How much is he talking and connecting with people? How independent is he?
Fair enough. We want them to progress and live a good quality life. But take a look at yourself. How much have you grown?
You’re stronger than you think you are. Your life has more depth and meaning because of the presence of your autistic child. Your child has shaped you to become the person you are today.
My prayer didn’t get answered the way I wanted it to. I learned to surrender and go with the flow of life. Mohit is who he is. And he’s beautiful as he is.
The bottom line is you can’t control life and make it go the way you want. If you flow with it, you’ll reach a beautiful destination you couldn’t even imagine.
Our children came with a purpose- to teach us how to live life. The least we can do is celebrate them. And respect them for who they are.