“Skiddle merinky dinky-dink, skiddle merinky-doo… I luvvv youuu!”
Mareto learned a new song at school this week and he’s been singing it us each day. There’s nothing quite like hearing your child tell you he loves you, whether it’s in song or a spontaneous moment of connection. Mareto has taught me so much about love in his four years of life and I’ve come to believe our children are our best teachers. Love is so much more than saying or hearing the words though…
Love is expressed in many ways, and as nice as the words are to hear, they are unnecessary to express true love. For a long time Mareto struggle to verbally express anything – needs, wants, thoughts, etc. But I never doubted his love for me just because he couldn’t say it out loud. Mareto expresses his love through his actions – it’s in the way he can’t fall asleep without one of us laying next to him until his breath gets slow and deep and he drifts off. It’s in the way he grabs our hands and says, “come and play!” in his sweet and cheerful little voice. It’s in the way he runs out of school and into our arms every day because he is so excited to be with us again. It’s in the way he comes to wrap his arms around me when I stub my toe and asks, “mommy got a boo-boo?” Words are overrated when it comes to love. Mareto reminds me every day that love is a verb.
Love covers a multitude of mistakes. There are evenings when the kids are in bed that I replay the day in my mind and wish I’d done so many things differently. I feel sadness, regret, disappointment in myself, and a whole host of negative emotions that don’t do any good. Sometimes I feel like I fail so much as a mom. As I think back on the day I wish I’d been more patient, calmer, more creative, more energetic, more… anything. Maybe if I’d just been moreMareto wouldn’t have had a two hour meltdown. Maybe if I’d just been more he would sleep better at night or eat better at meals. And then I hope — I hope my attitude didn’t upset him, I hope I didn’t make him sad by not understanding his needs, I hope I make him feel safe, secure, loved, and understood.
But do you know what happens? The most amazing thing — Mareto wakes up the next morning delighted to see me! He literally squeals in delight every morning and runs full speed into my arms. He kisses me all day and snuggles me when he’s tired. He runs to me when he’s hurt and grabs my hand when he is hungry. Despite all my failures Mareto still loves me and forgets (or doesn’t even notice) when I don’t get it quite right. He doesn’t hold my failures against me – he loves me anew every day.
Love overcomes. I’ve struggled with a lot of fear and anxiety over the years – anything from the fear of flying to fear of disappointing others and the unknown. Mareto has taught me that while love doesn’t always remove our fears, it does allow for courage and the strength to walk forward in spite of our fears. I’ve flown across oceans simply out of total love for my children. And when, less than two years later, a doctor diagnosed him with autism I was afraid of what the future held for Mareto, for myself, and for our family. But love had me staying up reading and researching late into the night. Love had me setting up evaluations, therapy schedules, and rearranging our life to fit our new normal. Love means that I fight for his rights and call “professionals” out on their behavior when they aren’t working in the best interest of my son – even though I hate conflict. Love causes me to write, and speak, and share, and advocate for my son and others like him, because when you love someone you do everything you can to make their world a better place.
Loving Mareto has stretched me in the best possible ways. Loving him has, at times, been sacrificial and selfless, but it has felt very selfish. Because he has loved me back with the most pure, innocent, uninhibited, and beautiful kind of love. Mareto has not taken from my life, he has only added to it. He has taught me about love simply by being himself and loving better than anyone I’ve ever met.
This post was written as a Valentine’s Day special for Autism Speaks in 2015.
For more of Mareto’s sweet and simple, but remarkable life lessons pre-order my book, It’s Okay About It today! It will be in stores on May 2nd.
Living with my five-year-old autistic son, Mareto, is a lot like playing the telephone game. He blurts out little phrases that have their origin in something he saw or heard, but by the time they make their way through his mind and back out of his mouth they’ve transformed—often into beautiful truths about living a simple, authentic, love- and joy-filled life.For all those looking to recapture the faith, simplicity, wonder, hope, courage, and joy of life, It’s Okay About It provides a guide to look inward and live outward, to discover the most wide open and beautiful life possible.