Vicki Wilkins, MD, MPH, shares why her son with special needs is a gift as she illustrates these lessons he has taught the family:
When people say my son is a burden, I think You must not see what I see.
My son is no burden. He is many things, but never that. He taught me unconditional love. Real unconditional love; not the love that I feel for my high performing, “easy” neuro-typical kids. He taught me the unconditional love of hands in poop, trash pulled from the garbage, endless falls and bonks, broken treasures, hours and hours of therapy, and never ever sleeping through the night.
Love through two years of sleep deprivation is real love.
He taught me what perseverance really means. You only need to watch him attempt the stairs 100 times or work to put on his shoe for 20 minutes to know how hard a person can really work … and for only the most basic of rewards. The work is the reward for him.
He taught me what (and who) is important. The judgment of others is not worth our time, but the acceptance from the Costco check-out clerk who gives him a hug and a high-five every week most certainly IS important.
He taught me what character is. He’s been a mirror to all the places where I fall short and the places where I’m enough. He reveals the best and worst of those around us as well. What a gift to see the world laid bare! He is joy. He knows joy. He sees through BS to the heart of every person. If you want to know whether a nanny is going to be good, just look to my son. He already knows.
He brings out the best in our other kids. I’ve seen them rise to so many occasions, overcome the disappointment of leaving a birthday party early because of their brother’s screams, rethink how they play, work and study so that it works better for him. I’ve seen them take the hand of an autistic boy in the park and help him work through his fears of the slide without thinking about it or being told to help.
He taught us what “sickness and health” means for our marriage. He taught me to be a better wife, a better mom, a better physician, and better friend. He taught me to stop saying, “Let me know how I can help.” and start saying, “I’ll be over at 4 with some food to fold some laundry.”
So yeah, he’s not a burden. He is a gift. May everyone be so lucky to learn the things I’ve learned by being his mom … and even luckier if they can learn it without having to go through it.