By Emily Wolf
I wish I would have heard more times in my life, “Be yourself, we are all different and that is what makes the world go around.” Instead, I heard the opposite. I was shy and kind but lacked confidence. I wasn’t strange, I was me. Now, as an adult I realize there is beauty in owning who you are, quirks included.
I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost fourteen years now. I was born and raised in South Louisiana and live in Lafayette with my best friend and husband of fifteen years, Matt. Our son, Seth, is our only child and has been a true teacher in our lives, he is our greatest gift. He has autism and a congenital muscular myopathy, RYR1. He has daily triumphs and struggles. He is and has always been authentically himself.
Seth loves cars, and cleaning them, R/C’s, animals and riding horses. He has patriotism deep in his bones and anyone who knows him knows that he doesn’t leave the house without his stars and stripes cape on. He loves puppets and I watch him make others laugh with his puppets and their personalities. He makes zero apologies for who he is, I love that about him.
I have always tried to remind Seth that God does not make mistakes and he should be proud of who he is. I am thankful that Seth doesn’t lack confidence. The one thing I still struggle to attain, he holds firm to. Seth inspired a story, and we wrote a children’s book together about loving yourself.
It can be hard in those dark moments of special needs parenting to appreciate things about our children when they are struggling so much, just me? Life can be overwhelming day to day. Fighting to meet goals or lying awake at night wondering what the future holds. Days of meltdowns, plans constantly derailed, sensory aversions, the list goes on, I’m sure you can relate.
Yet, if we take a breath, we see that our sweet babies have endless gifts. Their gifts may be loud or subtle, extraordinary talents or maybe just their confidence shining a light into the world. Our kids are beautiful, and I hope they can always appreciate what makes them unique and we can always cheer them on to celebrate themselves. They teach us without even realizing it, we learn by their example.
All these years later, I now find it easier to celebrate what makes me unique, because we celebrate Seth’s uniqueness. I find myself having more compassion with others, because Seth has shown me that we never know what other people may be facing and extending kindness is always best.
This one amazing life that we have been given, is meant to be lived to the full, celebrating and appreciating our authentic selves.
I often hear a quote that says something like, “you aren’t a tree, if you don’t like where you are in life then move.” Well, as special needs mothers, choices like that aren’t up to us. We can’t walk away from difficulties; we must flourish where we are. We must bloom where we have been planted. There are seeds of beauty within the souls of our sweet children. There is much to celebrate within our messy, amazing lives.
Look at your child today, notice everything that makes them who they are and savor it. Joy is in the gratitude, freedom to celebrate is found within acceptance. I try to focus on the good, and each time I see my sweet Seth’s cape blowing in the wind, I smile. My heart says, “You go Seth, you keep shining bright my little sunshine. Thank you for teaching me that uniqueness makes this world beautiful, we aren’t here to blend in.”