This I Believe

Maureen - San Diego, California
Entered on August 1, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in tomorrow

I believe in tomorrow. My 6 year old daughter, Emma, is autistic, and to keep myself going I have to. We are one of the fortunate families with an autistic child, in that she has well-developed language, she attends a mainstream school with the help of an aide, and if she is happy she can pass for a typical kid. But she isn’t typical, she never will be, and that has become one of the defining characteristics of our family. Being thrown into the sea of autism with your child is one of the most disorienting and heartbreaking things that can happen to a parent. Getting the therapies your child needs is test of wills between you and the various government agencies that are charged with providing services. It’s not that the workers are bad people; they are overwhelmed by the needs of so many families struggling with the same problems.

And so parents of autistic kids are forced to become experts in something that they wished they had never heard of. We spend hours taking our kids to therapies, sitting at home while our kids get therapy there, and searching the internet for new therapies that might help with tantrums, eating, or focusing at school. And all the while you realize that while you are trying to figure out what is best for your particular child, precious time is passing, time that you could be using in a better way. Talk about a Sisyphean task. But you keep at it, because all you can do is hope for the future, hope that someday your daughter or son will go to college, have an interesting job, maybe even meet someone and fall in love. In short, have a fulfilling life.

I am not one of those parents who to talks about how I love my daughter just the way she is, or how much my daughter has taught me. Not that I haven’t learned things, I have. I have learned how frustrated I can become, how I can never quite let go of the ghost of the daughter I wish I had, how I hate that simple things that others take for granted are so hard for us. But I have bull terrier in me, along with a wide stubborn streak, and I love my daughter fiercely. So I put my head down and push forward the only way I know how, by doing whatever I can to get her to be as normal as possible, and by taking breaks when I can’t stand it anymore. There are many times when I think that I can’t do this anymore, when I am overwhelmed by grief, frustration, and resentment. And after the sadness or the anger passes, I pick myself up, breathe a little, and start to think about tomorrow.