A few years ago, I came home to a bag of grapes sitting on my front porch.
This is odd, I thought. Someone must have left them at the wrong house.
The grapes came with a card. As I read the note, I could feel my jaw dropping, my head shaking. I pinched my cheeks to keep me from crying so I could continue to make out the words.
The note was from a dear, sweet friend of mine who had a daughter the exact same age as my oldest boy, Simon.
We learned how to be mothers together.
We texted at 3am. We compared notes on the babies’ sleep (or non-sleep…) habits and had “play dates” before the kids were old enough to know what was happening. They trick-or-treated together on their first Halloween—a little bumble bee and a chubby lion waddling around the neighborhood. Simon and this darling girl were literally growing up together.
As their second birthdays approached, it became clear that Simon was lagging behind this friend and other peers developmentally. A year and a half later, he would be diagnosed with ASD.
As with many kids on the Autism spectrum, Simon’s language developed atypically; early on, it was impossible to have back-and-forth exchanges.
Still, every day after preschool, I would ask him,
“Simon, what did you have for snack at school today?”
He wouldn’t answer, or he’d start reading the letters off of license plates we were walking past.
Still, I’d ask him.
Until one day, I asked him, and he answered,
I immediately called and told my sweet friend. We celebrated Simon answering his first question.
And every year since then, on the exact same day, that friend has left grapes on my doorstep.
As I navigate being a mother to a special little boy, I have discovered that there are two things I cannot do without:
1) A friend who will listen and not try to fix.
2) The ability to celebrate victories, big and small.
The gift of celebration has changed my perspective on having a son who is “different” and has given me the opportunity to reframe our narrative. His delays and struggles are not a disappointment. They give me the gift of never taking a milestone for granted. They remind me of how hard he works to achieve skills that come naturally to others.
He is remarkable and it is remarkable to celebrate him.
I will not pretend that I don’t have my moments of grief. I have twinges of wishing he could experience the world the way that I do or the way his friends will. But I have learned that projecting doesn’t do anything and that he doesn’t spend time wishing he was “normal” so I don’t need to, either.
Simon has come a long way since “Grapes Day” as my friend calls it.
As we drove home from school a few weeks ago, Simon asked me,
“Mommy, is it OK to love myself?”
I told him it was absolutely OK and that is was good and important.
Thank you to my sweet “Grapes” friend. You know who you are.
And thank you to Simon, who gives me reasons to celebrate him every single day.