‘What does your son want to be when he grows up?’ ‘Um, well. He’s autistic.’ Silence. I could tell she was uncomfortable.’: Mom to son with autism encourages us to ‘share, normalize’ differences

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“I found myself sitting next a woman at the pool.

She has three children and seven grandkids.

She lives in a big city. She is on vacation with her girlfriends. ‘No husbands!’ she exclaimed.

She asked me about my life. Do I have kids? Where am I from? She really wanted to talk kids. I could tell. She was a very sweet woman. Like my own mother.

‘I do! Three boys. They are the reason for this vacation,’ I said with a smile.

She asked how old they are.

‘Almost 9, 6, and 1’ I said.

‘One of my grandsons is 9. Such a fun age. He is playing soccer and baseball. He’s very active. His mom has him volunteering at a shelter in their neighborhood. He wants to be a singer. And a veterinarian. Isn’t that a riot? He’s just started talking back. Oooo, does he have a smart mouth at times. Kids these days. So different than when I grew up. Everyone is so busy now. Tell me about your sons. You must be going nonstop?’

I always find this part to be hard. I’m not embarrassed about autism. I’m not shy. I don’t feel the need to keep it a secret. But our life is different. And no matter how I describe it, once I say the word autism, the conversation will get weird. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Unless she has autism in her life. And I don’t want it to be that way. It shouldn’t be a sad thing.

I told her about Sawyer. Then the baby. Then Cooper. I said he loves trains and puzzles. And the alphabet. And dancing. He played miracle league baseball this year. That was a riot. He is really excited for his birthday this year.

‘What does he want to be when he grows up?’

There it was. A question that I couldn’t really answer without sharing autism.

‘Um. Well. I don’t know that. He’s autistic. He’s just learning how to talk and communicate. He’s doing great. Amazing. He goes to a special school that’s helping him tremendously. But as for a job, I just don’t know if that’s in the cards. But I would love if he could volunteer or have some sort of job some day.’

Silence.

I could tell she felt uncomfortable. After just telling me all about the things her grandson is doing. And will most likely achieve. She felt bad for me. I knew this would happen. It always does. People hear autism. And then nonverbal. And then lifelong care. And they feel bad. I get it. I’m not offended.

Courtesy of KT Swenson

So I do everything I can to tell them about the beautiful parts. The parts that most people don’t know about because they aren’t celebrated in the mainstream world.

I told her how every single day is the best day of his life. He’s always happy. He’s learning to say his brother’s names. He loves hugging and tickling and wrestling. He loves photos…especially of his baby brother.

It’s such a fine line for me. A confusing line. I don’t want people to feel sad. I want to talk about our life openly and honestly. The good, the hard, and the reality. Because it’s my life. It’s as simple as that. I want to share our world just like she wants to share hers. One is not less. Just different. Differences we should talk about.

Courtesy of KT Swenson

Moms and dads in our world. Keep talking. Tell your stories. Share your world. Share your children. Because that’s the only way we are going to move forward. Keep talking. Normalize our world.”

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Courtesy of KT Swenson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by KT Swenson. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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