A Piece of my Heart

I read once that becoming a parent was allowing a piece of your heart to walk around outside of your body. I think becoming a parent of a child with autism is having huge chunks of your heart routinely gouged out and hung on a spit over a roaring fire. It just doesn't appear as dramatic as it sounds. But, trust me, we parents are experts at hiding that kind of trauma. We have lots of practice.

One of the things a parent loves to hear is "I love you too mommy." And it is one of the things that a parent of a minimally verbal autistic child craves.

When we had Isaac, our 3rd and fairly normally developing (if extremely ornery at times) child, we were astounded to watch him do things that the other two never did or did profoundly late. Having him potty train at 3 was not early, unless you compare it to the 7 years it took the other 2. Man, 3 years worth of diapers and diaper changes avoided, priceless. Throwing a tantrum in WalMart because he wanted a toy? Excellent. We stood there and nearly applauded him. And it made me tear up the first time he said "I love you too mommy." I just don't hear it often from Sam, and never from Nathan. From Isaac nearly every night.

So tonight as I was putting Nathan to bed, I went through my usual routine "Night, night, sleep tight" and he finished "don't let the bed bugs bite." I said "see you in the morning light. I love you buggy butt." And he replied "I love you too."

One of those pieces of my heart just found its way home. Maybe that's why they symbolize autism with a puzzle piece.


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