Rose Colored Glasses
My dad once told me that I always saw the world through rose colored glasses. When I was young, I didn't really know what that meant but now I do and I think my dad was, and still is, right. (Aren't they always.) I know that it usually comes with a negative connotation but to me, it's a gift. I also think that maybe I was given this gift at a young age because He knew I would need to practice using them for what I'm going through now. Because when I go back and read all the things I've written about Noah and the kind of life we live with him, I can see that I am still, most certainly, looking through those same rose colored glasses I had as a little girl.
I don't think I realized this until I posted one of my blogs (Hope, Happiness, and Normalcy) to a public site a while back and a few responses came in afterwards. Most of them were kind. They either gave me encouragement or told me I helped them in some way which was really nice.
But there was one comment....just one....that said something to the effect of: "I'm so tired of people acting like having autism is a good thing. How can you be happy when your child can't even say he loves you?"
Unfortunately, the person (or someone) had removed the comment so I couldn't respond but I did think about it for a long time; how I would have answered that person. I thought a lot about who that person might be. For some reason, more and more, I feel like it was a frustrated mom that was just tired of hearing about all the so-called 'good stuff' because she knew the truth.
Maybe this mom was 'calling bullshit' on me.
Because, you know what 'frustrated-autism-mom'? (Yeah, that's her name now)
I get it.
It sucks having to live with autism in your family. It hurts to go online and see all the beautiful little babies that look so much like your little boy talking to their mommies. Like, actually talking. Having whole conversations in their adorable little baby voices about why they covered their baby brother with diaper cream. Or even something as simple as stating they want "the RED cup. Not the blue one!" And to see how they run as fast as they can into their mommy's waiting arms as soon as they walk through the door, screaming "Mommy's home!!!!"
It hurts. A lot.
But, it's the hand we were dealt.
And there are beautiful things about autism that I never knew.
You just have to put on the right lenses.
I, apparently, have been graced with the privilege of playing with these lenses my whole life.
I've found that the rose colored ones work best. (The blue ones are bad. Stay away from the blue ones).
Now, don't get me wrong. Those lenses that I so easily adorn my eyes with every day can get really thin sometimes and the harsh light of reality can burn it's way through. On those days, the blue-lens days, I see Noah like the rest of the world probably sees him. This cute little blonde-haired, blue eyed boy moving stuffed animals from one side of the room to the other, making a constant "mmmmmmm" sound.
I see it.
I see what some other people see.
Maybe frustrated-autism-mom has something like that going on at her house and that might be all she sees. Her own little wonder boy just walking back and forth making that constant "mmmmmm" sound. She probably feels defeated or perhaps disheartened. Or, at the very least, she's just really, really tired.
She wants to know how to get through one of the those days. When the relentless light of reality pierces through our delicate rose filter. Or maybe she just wants to know if we even have those days. And trust me, we have those days.
But we get through them.
And we still find beauty.
Actually, we get through them because we find beauty.
And it's all because of our rose colored glasses.
But if you want me to be honest?
To tell you about one of those days?
With no filters; no lenses at all?
There was this one day.....
It was a rough one.
Sara came in while I was doing some mundane chore with a crooked little grin that was obviously meant to hide her true feelings. She reminded me of one of those circus clowns that had a big, silly grin painted on their face but always still seem so sad. Her rose colored glasses looked like they were there only to deceive her sullen eyes.
She told me that while she was walking into daycare to pick up Noah that afternoon, another mommy was walking out with her little boy.
Hand in hand, they walked toward her. As they got closer, the little boy unexpectedly looked up at his mommy and, in his sweet little two-year-old-voice, for no apparent reason said;
"I love you mommy."
As soon as she said those words,
I felt that stabbing pain in my heart.
You know the one. Where you can physically feel your child's pain?
I can close my eyes right now and still see her looking at me;
Telling me that she really understood her reality in that moment. The pain in her eyes was raw. She was wounded. Her rose colored glasses were shattered. I worried she might never be able to piece them back together.
Her eyes welled up with tears that stubbornly refused to fall down her cheeks and my heart filled with a sorrow for her I could have never found a way to express.
I was at an utter loss for words.
All I could see were her tears.
All I could feel was her pain.
Every rose colored filter was gone.
For both of us.
My mind raced to come up with something other than all the declarations we tell each other every day like:
"He tells you he loves you every day. He just says it differently."
"You know he loves you. You don't have to hear the words."
"He's going to say it one day! You know it!"
"Try to be patient. It's going to happen."
because that's not what she wanted to hear.
Not this time.
I knew that.
So I said the only thing I could come up with; the only thing my brain would allow my mouth to say:
"I know. I'm sorry baby."
She quickly turned and left the room before I could see those stubborn tears fall. My eyes, on the other hand, filled up with hot little cowardly tears. They ran out by the hundreds, like they were being chased out by some monster inside my head.
I tried to put myself in her shoes at that very moment in time.
In that daycare hallway.
Finger paintings and the alphabet in bright colors all over the wall. Everything, like the water fountain and the tables and chairs, are all in miniature. The smell of cafeteria food still lingering in the air. Children's voices murmuring happily in the background.
I'm sure his voice, though, sounded like a little angel's voice; and his words....the words she craves to hear from the lips of her own little angel....had to have hung in the air like thick, soft, beautiful clouds that blinded her, for I know, at least a moment. I'm sure she wanted to float on that cloud, in that moment, for as long as possible. Listening to that little voice over and over and over again. "I love you mommy".
Her heart probably skipped a beat too. Like it was about to stop completely and then, instead, it just melted. All the blood drained from her head and cheeks and then, somehow found its way down to her knees which, I can only imagine, almost buckled. Then, the blood ran out of her toes and onto the ground like a pool of thick quicksand around her feet, holding her, steadfast, in that spot for just a split second. Paralyzed.
I closed my eyes and tried to feel it.
Blinded, weak, and unable to walk; stuck in quicksand created by those words in a some other little boy's angelic voice:
"I love you mommy."
There were no rose colored glasses anywhere to be found.
I know how she felt because I've been there.
I've felt it.
And there's no denying that it hurts.
It hurts like hell.
But, here's the thing; we keep going.
We keep going because we just never know when he's going to look us in the eyes, lean forward, and place his forehead on ours.
Or when he might leave a puzzle or something else we know he loves to come and climb in our lap and cuddle.
Or when he's going to grab our finger and bring us in his playroom and make us sit down to play.
Or when he will show us something new he's learned that proves he's been listening all along.
Those are the kinds of things, like little everyday miracles, that make our rose colored glasses magically adorn our eyes. Or maybe the miracles appear because we already had the glasses on. Either way, with those glasses, we can actually see the words that Noah is trying to say. Just like in that daycare hallway. Floating past us like soft velvety clouds with beautiful little words floating inside them. We can only see them right now but we hope we will hear them one day.
Later that evening, Sara was tickling Noah and he kept laughing and running away and running back, only to fall into her lap and be tickled again. They both had huge bright grins on their faces. As I was watching them, I said out loud what I knew Noah was saying with every giggle;
"I love you mommy."
Sara looked at me and smiled a truly happy smile and then looked at Noah and said:
"I love you too, buddy."
And just like that - the rose colored glasses were back.
So, frustrated-autism-mom, my advice for you is this, again:
But more times than not, it's beautiful and sweet and funny and perplexing and thought provoking.
And sure, it can test your faith in yourself and in your God. But the rewards you get are immeasurable.
The words, when you do hear them, will be the most amazing words ever spoken.
You will never take for granted the things that other parents do.
And you will continue on this journey with your little wonder boy until he becomes the person you know he can be because that's what autism moms (and G-Maws) do. We keep going.
In the process, you will help him discover who he is but, what's more incredible, is that if you let him, he will help you discover who you are.
So, try to be patient.
Don't give up.
And, most importantly, try to find yourself some rose colored glasses. As a matter of fact, your little boy is probably holding them for you. Anxiously waiting for you to try them on.
I have learned that, for some people, it takes a little bit of practice but if you can find these special glasses, first say a prayer of thanks, then try them on.
The world is a beautiful place.
Your little boy wants to show you.