Today Charlie and I met up with a local moms group for the first time. I was a little nervous, even making note in my Facebook status about how it felt sort of like the first day of school for me. I don’t have any stay-at-home mom friends, and it felt like my big chance to make some SAHM connections.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried, as everyone was very friendly and cordial. There was a lot of getting-to-know-you talk, which was thankfully often broken up by one of us having to sprint away after a wandering child. I took Charlie on the playground, and after less than five minutes of play, another little boy (who, let’s face it, was a LOT older than Charlie) pushed and knocked Charlie over - all without provocation. I watched my kiddo land on his back and bonk his head on the floor, and tears filled my eyes as Charlie let out a big, loud scream. I quickly picked him up as the other little boy’s dad asked me if Charlie was okay.
“He’s autistic,” the boy’s father said, “He really doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
I assured him that Charlie was okay and decided we should keep our distance. Despite that, about thirty minutes later, the same kid came up to Charlie and began tickling him. And then he planted two big kisses right on Charlie’s mouth. It was .... odd. But I was thankful there was no more pushing. The one pushing episode left me with a deep feeling of helplessness, the knowledge that bad things can (and will) happen to my baby right in front of me, and there’s not a lot I can do about it, except give him hugs and let him know that it’ll be okay.
Awhile later I took Charlie to the water area of the park. We’d been there before, back when Charlie was taking a small, tentative steps but still mostly crawling. Charlie’s been walking like an old pro for the last few weeks, so I set him down in the midst of all the other kids so he could play in the water. He was easily the smallest kid there, and the water was coming from all different directions, some of it hitting Charlie right in the face and temporarily blinding him.
I watched as he decided to make his way through all the sprays of water, walking determinedly to the other side of the play area, his sweet little face scrunched up in concentration. Kids were flying past him; a few of them almost knocked him over. Water kept spraying him right in the face. I could see how overwhelming it was for him, but beyond that I noticed that he was far too determined to let anything stop him. My heart swelled with bittersweet pride as my little boy made it to the other side of the play area, where I was waiting for him.
He walked straight over to me and gave me a giant hug. And then he walked away again and got sprayed in the face. Another hug, and he was off again. And so on it went, until he decided he’d had enough and let me know it by screaming his little blonde head off. We went home soon after.
My baby is 14 months old now, and every day he lets me know that he’s growing up. Whether he’s wanting to feed himself with a spoon or walk doggedly through the water play area at a local park, he’s Mr. Independent. I am so proud of him, and with each step he takes, I can see him walking further away from me, the one who loved him first, the one who protected him until he was ready to meet the world. Watching him grow up breaks my heart with happiness on the daily.
I’m not sure how I got so lucky, only that I did, and being his mother is something I will never, ever take for granted.