Rain clouds form in the sky. The rest of Southern California rejoices at the prospect of rain, but even in the midst of a severe drought my insides twist; I know what comes next. My 9-year-old son, Jackson, finds me, and the questions roll as quick as thunder: “Is it going to rain, Mommy? Are those rain clouds? When will it start? Will we be safe? Will there be lightning? What if I get wet?” Wrapping my arms around him, I assure him that he is safe, I am here, and we will get through this together. But as the rain begins to fall, so do his tears. The weather produces daily—no, hourly—anxiety, brought to a crescendo when it actually storms. An insignificant drizzle can change the course of our family’s entire day. Living with Jackson often feels like this; things that the rest of the world barely notice—a light sprinkling of rain, wearing bumpy socks, sitting in a different seat than normal—create mountains of fear, confusion, and frustration that we must climb together over and over again.
My husband, Jeff, and I knew early that Jackson was developing uniquely from the other children his age. He began early intervention before his second birthday, and at the age of four, he was officially diagnosed as high-functioning autistic.
I often feel so inadequate to this task set before me—parenting a child with special needs. It forces an honesty in parenting with which I am not always comfortable. For Jackson to succeed he must be known—every joy, fear, area of weakness, and need. Sitting back and believing it will all work out for the best cannot happen; it will not work out. Jackson’s life will suffer. Instead I am actively a part of every single aspect of his development. Whether it’s schoolwork or peer relationships or understanding social norms, many areas that children just typically learn as they grow do not come as easily for our son.
Parenting an autistic child isn’t much different than parenting my other two typically developing daughters … it’s just more. More reassurance. More patience. More compassion. More grace. More empathy. Likewise, the inevitable ‘mommy-guilt’ is also MORE. “I should be doing more for Jackson” runs through my head on a loop. I cannot turn it off, because it is true; I could be finding specialized interventions, adjusting his diet, consulting specialists; always more. For Jackson. For all my children. For my husband. Even for myself.
It feels like a cliche to say, “I’m doing the best I can.” All the same—I really am. I must believe in a God who sees my limitations, knows all my fear, loneliness, and hope, feels all these things alongside me—a God who gives me all that’s necessary. I keep showing up for Jackson, God keeps showing up for me.
Here’s the thing: God gave me Jackson—my brave, kind, smart little boy. God doesn’t abandon me as I wipe rain-tears, find obscure stripmall-fountains, discuss the intricacies of superheroes, and clean up after tantrums. Still, I doubt I have what it takes to be Jackson’s mom. The only thing outweighing my doubt is the trust I have in my God to give me all I need, and all Jackson needs, too. Because as much as I love Jackson and will advocate and fight for him, I know God loves and fights for him that much more.
I believe that God has truly great things ahead for Jackson. I have faith that God did not make a mistake when He chose me for this job. So I will continue to pray for sunshine, and will hold him close when the inevitable thunderstorms and rainclouds of life come his way.