Dear Little C,
You're five now. Five, as in "the age of school" five; five as in, "no longer a toddler" five. This milestone feels less a milestone as it does a crossroads, now. Three years ago, I couldn't have fathomed what five would look like on you - I wouldn't, in fact, have been able to push aside the panic to think on it. Five was too much--too BIG--to handle when you're taking autism one day at a time.
Five, standing on the cusp of your future. It doesn't seem real, but every day I feel time barreling onward, faster and faster, and I realize that you are no longer the infant depending on me for everything vital in your life. Nor are you the fretful, overwhelmed toddler in need of our guidance in a strange and frightening world that doesn't speak your language.
You're you now, sweet boy. You always were, really, but you're coming into it now. You're more comfortable with what you like--and what you don't--and every day there seems to appear another tool in your toolbox to communicate your what's and why's. Instead of crying in distress, you pull words from your hard earned arsenal to tell me not just that you don't like something, but what it is about it that irks you.
As frustrating as it sometimes is when you glare and harrumph at me, glaring is precious--it's hard-fought communication. I treasure your glares with as much fervor as I once prayed for answers as to why--why--my poor baby was crying, without knowing the reason why.
It makes me sad when you declare you no longer want kisses anymore - you request Eskimo kisses instead, and for as hard as you've worked to make yourself understood, I push aside my sadness and replace it with pride in your ability to express yourself, now. I quietly thrill, though, when you place a gentle kiss upon my cheek in return, though you won't allow me to touch your own.
There are--and will almost always be--times in which I must be Parent, Teacher, Coach - there to push you beyond your self-imposed limits, prod you past your fears, insist upon the Trying instead of Fearing.
Now that Five has arrived, though, I watch the feathers of your wings inch out, bit by bit, and realize that the days of those decisions being solely mine are numbered. My responsibility to push you to stretch your boundaries is equaled by that of the need to respect your decision when Enough has become Enough.
I don't understand why the smell of meat makes you so upset, but because you pushed yourself to try it anyway, I'll learn to cook your favorite meatless foods. Peanut butter's practically as good as meat anyway, right?
Three years ago, I took a photo of you similar to this one, and the emotions that filled me at the sight were overwhelming. I worried for you - we hadn't yet learned you were autistic, and I didn't know what that word did - and did not - mean. I just knew that I didn't understand why you did this, and it made me feel helpless.
Three years later now, though, and while you're still doing this--the same "quirk" that first alarmed me--now the sight fills me with wonder. Your mind is fascinating to me, and a constant treasure. I am proud that you see things that I don't, however you see them. I don't need to understand to be proud.