When you receive your child's autism diagnosis, it's normal to mourn the loss of the parenting experience you thought you would have. You won't share things with your child that you always dreamed about.
But maybe you will.
Last week, Tosh and I spent the day at Sea World, celebrating his friend's birthday. We had fun looking at dolphins, penguins, sea lions and manta rays. Our friends even treated us to a Dine with the Orcas experience!
As much as Tosh loves animals, the thing he enjoyed most at Sea World was riding rollercoasters.
Isn't it funny how when it comes to autism, motivation is everything? Tosh struggles with positional words (over, next to, inside) but when he's at a theme park settling into a rollercoaster car, he can follow every direction perfectly.
He raises his arms to allow the over-the-shoulder restraints to lower into place. He always remains seated and keeps his arms in the car. He can even wait in line when he needs to.
Sea World wasn't very busy so the lines were very short. That meant we rode rollercoasters - the adult ones, not kiddie rides - over and over and over again. We're talking 30 rides at least.
I love rollercoasters. I'm a big thrill seeker (probably a sensory seeker) and am always up for more fun. I've never been out-rollercoastered at a theme park.
Until last weekend.
Even though Tosh was still going strong at 9 p.m., I was pooped and dizzy and more than a little nauseated.
And it was the best feeling in the world. I've found my theme park bestie!
Instead of focusing on all the things your child can't do, remain open to discovering the things they can do, especially things that you love.
No, your child won't grow up to be exactly as you dreamed, but what child ever does? All parents experience that.
Even if your child has autism, they are still your child and inherited some of your characteristics. They may share your love of reggae music or jigsaw puzzles or the color green or fart jokes or hotel stays.
These are all things Tosh and I enjoy, but had I not made a conscious effort to focus on the positive, I might have missed them.
You might need to release some of your expectations as to how you'll enjoy things together, but if you're patient and look for the opportunities, you'll find that you can develop bonds with them that are just as precious as they would be if they were neurotypical.