Earlier this summer our family vacationed on the Pamlico Sound. As is expected during our summers here in North Carolina, we experienced a few afternoon thunderstorms. One afternoon, this view of the sky really captured my attention. Looking at the clouds you can’t really tell whether the storm is coming or going, who has already weathered the storm and who is about to be shaken by its thunder. More than that though, I was awestruck by the visual reminder that you can literally be neighbors, side by side, and have two vastly different experiences. While one of you is bathed in bright sunlight, the other is under the cover of thick clouds with thunder so loud and powerful that it feels like the very foundation of your house is shaking.
Isn’t this true about life? There are many among us who are weathering storms that we can’t even see. If we can see the storm from across the horizon, we are certainly not experiencing them the same way. We have all weathered our own unique storms in life. Certainly, there are storms that we survived completely on our own, but I think I can safely say that we are all thankful for those who have lived out storms with us.
I know that I am grateful for many who found ways to be present with me in one of the more challenging storms of my life. About a year and a half ago, my husband and I noticed that our son was struggling to keep up with his peers in school. His teachers brought to our attention several behaviors that didn’t seem to match his age and they were concerned. Our son has always been a unique soul who sees life differently than most. We thought we understood his issues fully, but our worry and concern began to grow bigger at each turn. A kind friend showed brave compassion when she encouraged us to open our hearts and minds and look deeper. This led to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This newly added diagnosis honestly wasn’t a shock but it was harder to swallow than I thought it would be. It seemed the challenges that we had hoped he would eventually grow out of would be more long-lasting. All of a sudden my storm got bigger, darker, and scarier than before. I am full of gratitude that I didn’t have to weather this storm alone. The same friend who encouraged us to seek further help, was right there to listen to my fear when the diagnosis came. Through a mutual friend, another mom (a stranger to me) who lives the same storm met me for coffee and offered support and encouragement. Linda, a longtime friend, and fellow ASD mom drove thirty minutes to meet me for lunch and give me a stack of books that I will one day be brave enough to read. She talked to me about her own son and the joys and challenges of parenting a child on the spectrum. She helped me find my way and offered hope in ways that I never thought possible. Linda showed me that even in the darkest of storms, there can be great light. My best friend from high school offered her home for a few days of respite as I gathered my words to write a letter to our family and closest friends. My loyal group of mom friends kept me going with texts of encouragement and an immense amount of patience with my child who doesn’t always follow the social norms. For all of these who helped me row my boat through the stormy seas of the first few months of a new diagnosis, I am grateful. I am even more grateful that their support continues.
Sometimes parenting a child with autism feels like a summer shower with just a little bit of rain while the sun shines brightly. Other times, it feels more like a hurricane and the roof is going to blow off any minute, but through it all, I am grateful for those who have chosen to see my storm and walk with me along the way. I am grateful for all of the ways that so many have shown compassion even when they can never truly live my storm with me.
Minister of Preschool and Children
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