Stop worrying about the future and stop replaying what happened in the past. Listen to the words of Roosevelt, "Do what you can with what you have where you are."
As I reminisced about the last year and identified the hopes I had for the coming year, I thought back on what our family has endured over the years past. I wish I could have gone back into time to tell myself to worry less and take time to enjoy the little things because time has a way of getting away from us if we let it. Still, to this day, my husband and I say that the moment our son was diagnosed with autism was one of the scariest and most life changing times of our lives because it affected every person we cared about. Most of all, our immediate circle of trust and love that included Hayden and Broden.
I told Mark that I wish I could go back during that time that I was alone in the bathroom stall, crying in the medical center about 30 minutes after hearing the diagnosis of autism. I was there in the bathroom stall, thinking that the diagnosis must have been some sort of mistake and that my family was not supposed to be the ones chosen for this life. A life with autism that I still couldn't understand.
If I could go back and have a few minutes I would validate fears of my younger self, but I would remind her that Broden was still the same boy he was before she brought him to the medical center for testing. I would tell her to listen, listen to a voice of one who's been there and walked in her exact shoes. I would say something like this…
"I know you're scared and I know you're mad. I know you need someone to blame. This will pass in due time. You will learn that being scared is a feeling that you'll need to identify and work through, but being mad and trying to find someone to blame will be time wasted. You only have so much energy, so make it worthwhile. You will hear that Broden is a gift and, at first, you will not understand, because you will be overrun by grief and unsure on how to help him. I guarantee you if you open your heart and see all of Broden as he truly is, you will love harder, work harder, and fight harder for him than you ever thought you could.
You will soon realize that you will not care anymore what people think. You will learn to pause and let your son teach you that happiness and success may not be the same definition of what others see as happiness and success.
Your son will always surprise you, so don't ever assume what he will or won't do. He hears what you say, so speak carefully. Teach his older brother how to connect with him. If his older brother sees that you are lost, talk through it with him. Broden will teach his big brother lessons that no one else will be able to in his life. Remind him of that when he is frustrated and Sometimes you need to hurt in order to struggling to connect with Broden.
Stop worrying about the future and stop replaying what happened in the past. Listen to the grow words of Roosevelt, 'Do what you can with what you have where you are.' It will be enough. It will always be enough if you work with your partner, Mark. Give Mark a chance. This is one of many situations to come that is impossible to handle by yourself. I will say this again because I know you're stubborn. You cannot do this yourself.
Broden's diagnosis of autism is not your fault. It's not Mark's fault. Once you realize that Mark is on your team, both of you will learn to lean on each other and become a unified front. As a team, you will accomplish more that will benefit your son's quality y of life because, in the end, that is what matters.
I challenge you not to fight where the journey takes you. Where you are is where you're supposed to be. Wherever you are on your journey is an opportunity for you to reflect and learn to grow a little wiser. If you live in the present and appreciate it, this will only benefit you as time passes. You will be scared quite often and will try to find ways to avoid hurt. In order to avoid hurt, you will try to shelter Broden and in turn, this may stifle his growth and independence. Be careful. This will be an ongoing challenge for you, so you need to identify it and modify your plan for him because he deserves to be challenged.
You will learn the meaning of trust as "Where you are is where you're supposed to be. Wherever you are on your journey is an opportunity for you to reflect and learn to grow a little wiser. If you live in the present and appreciate it, this will only benefit you as time passes." you realize that it will take a village to raise your son. Always be grateful and appreciate those who have been appreciate those who have been brought into your family's life to help Broden grow and learn. Learn to identify those who are not and minimize the footprint they will have on your journey. Lastly, enjoy your life with your son and see enriches how he your family's lives. You will soon learn that your life is full. Don't avoid experiences to avoid hurt. Sometimes you need to hurt in order to grow. Broden was gifted to your family to grow you."
My heart swelled as I wrote these words. If only I could share these sentiments with my younger self a little over a decade ago. Looking back, our journey has been a long and winding trail with our share of pot holes and rickety bridges, but as I look back and reminisce, the journey has left me with a beautiful view. •
HINDSIGHT: I wish I could have gone back into time to tell myself to worry less and take time to enjoy the little things because time has a way of getting away from us if we let it.
PUZZLES & CAMO Shelly Huhtanen is an Army wife stationed at Fort Benning, GA who has a child with autism. She enjoys sharing her experiences of day-to-day life caring for her son with autism while serving as an Army spouse. She authored "Giving a Voice to the Silent Many" that encompasses many stories of raising a child with autism in the military. Shelly is passionate about autism advocacy for our military and works to bring awareness to our local legislators and command about providing better support for our military autism community, such as better health care and education.