Mareto came home from Ethiopia as a sweet, wide eyed, and peaceful baby boy. Having a baby was a dream come true for me and I cherished every moment… even the nighttime feedings.  There were several moms at our church who were pregnant with babies due right around the time he came home. While they talked about their growing bellies I sat on the sidelines and thought about the paperwork I was laboring through. While they shared their delivery stories I sat quietly and thought about the trips I took around the world while I held my sweet son. I wished at times that I could relate to their stories but I didn’t mind so much because I figured that after a little time passed I would be just another mom among all the other moms as we raised our kids.

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So it came as a sad surprise to me when months passed and I still felt so very alone and different in parenting. Why couldn’t my boy sit through church with me like all the other babies? Why did my son fall apart when we tried to take him into the nursery? When the congregation sang or applauded for any reason why did my baby begin crying hysterically? All the other kids started eating solids and saying words. Why didn’t my boy call me “mama” and start talking too? Was I a horrible mommy? Why wasn’t my son developing like all the other kids? Mothers shared milestones on facebook and I cried behind my computer screen.

Soon it became evident that something was different about my precious boy. I knew he wasn’t like the other kids but I didn’t know why. On September 5, 2012 we learned the reason behind all of it. Autism. One word and I felt more alone than ever before. I didn’t know anyone with an autistic child but I knew our world would never be the same.

While other mommies took their kids for mid-morning play dates we drove to therapy. When other children enjoyed birthday parties and gatherings my son melted down – overwhelmed by all the people and sounds. The other kids his age were beginning to speak in full sentences and ate sandwiches… Mareto communicated mostly by gesture and we were happy if he ate a bowl of oatmeal once a day. Other moms brag about their child who just went in the potty and I wonder if I’ll be changing his diapers when he’s five. If I let it, having a child with autism can be a very lonely place.

A special friend sent me an email with a portion of her daily devotional. I read the words written by Beth Moore with tears in my eyes.

“Blessed are you when what takes the natural course with someone else means that a miracle has to happen for you.

I’ve got a friend that I admire so much, a young woman in the Houston area who has a son with autism.  He, like many children with autism, did not speak for many years.

When he was about four and a half I got a text from his mom saying, “He said ‘daddy’ today!”  Nobody on the planet has ever had that much celebration over saying the word “daddy”.  Nobody!  You can’t imagine how all of her friends just shouted praise to God.

Other kids have been saying it all day long and no one noticed, but we noticed when this one did!  What had been a natural course for someone else had taken the supernatural power of God for this little boy.  Let the Lord’s name be praised!

What seems effortless to some may take miracles for others.  But I’ve never met anyone who afterwards would have traded the miracle!  I know it’s hard to imagine that when you are in the midst of it, but trust me you’d rather have the miracle.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Through the miracle of my son I can see that I am never really alone. God sees every struggle, every tear, and every lonely moment. He holds my hand through it all even when I can’t feel his presence. Mareto has opened my eyes to see the miracles in our everyday lives. I’ve been blessed to find friends who have risen from the crowds, wrapped their arms and prayers around us, and decide to take the steps to go on this journey with us.

Mareto has given me more joy than I ever could have imagined. We work so hard and we delight in each triumph. There are many joys to be found in the little things and that’s where I choose to spend my days —  finding joy in what might seem like ordinary moments for others… but are truly extraordinary moments for us.

And because we’ve been given the gift of Mareto (and his little sister Arsema) I am never ever alone. I have more love, more affection, more snuggles, and more hope than ever before… all wrapped up in a very special boy.

This post first appeared on  Mandie Joy’s in 2013.

*photo by Anecdotally Yours*

  • Tausha Burke - You’re so right. It’s tough to see the other moms and children hit milestones on time without taking it personal, or feeling that mommy guilt. But oh!! The celebrations are so much sweeter when they finally do hit one:) I love reading your blogs!!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberli Hilton Hughes - I so enjoy your blog. I watched your video of bringing mareto home and just bawled. I adopted domestically 3 African american boys within 4 years and then had a baby girl. They are my hope and my joy. Your blog posts bring tears to my eyes as we discover specific challenges with each boy …. These babies come from hard places. I lived a very normal life and my emotions are in disarray. 2 of my boys spent time in NICU. I can’t imagine having the warmth and love of your natural birth mom surround you and then be placed in a hospital bed for weeks (with amazing nurses) and then to a family that felt so new and different …. And wonderful. Our emotions spill all over in our family and we have found tools to cope. Simple things like finding a sitter who can handle all of them and their uniqueness is a daily challenge. I’m being refined and also wouldn’t change a moment. Thank you for being real on your blog. You are helping women everywhere.ReplyCancel

  • Alice Dianga - Thanks.
    Be Blessed.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Lauren, I am so sorry you are going through this journey but I can assure you there are reasons God choose you to be your son’s mom. He knew you needed each other and you would be the best parents for this little guy. I have been alone to on some of the stuff my son has to endure but I just try to stay positive and look at all the good things and miracles he does have going for him. As time goes on I do think you learn to accept your new normal. I know with your faith and through God’s miracles you will come out just fine and all will be well.
    KatieReplyCancel

  • Raynor Lee - wow… As a mum myself to a little boy with autism, this gives me great strength thank you xReplyCancel

  • Molly - Having a child with autism has introduced me to a new host of emotions that are hard to express. You express them beautifully in all your posts. Keep writing!ReplyCancel

Boys who cry can work for Google. Boys who trash computers cannot. I once was at a science conference, and I saw a NASA scientist who had just found out that his project was canceled—a project he’d worked on for years. He was maybe sixty-five years old, and you know what? He was crying. And I thought, Good for him. That’s why he was able to reach retirement age working in a job he loved.
― Temple Grandin

The other day Mareto was getting frustrated with a toy that wasn’t operating the way he wanted. After trying several times, he threw the toy on the floor with an exasperated growl and yelled, “I get mad sometimes!” It might sound odd, but I was so proud of him in that moment. He not only identified his emotions but was also able to verbally express them to me. It was a huge victory with more room for learning.

I love that Temple Grandin quote because I think she lays it out so perfectly for everyone, not just people with autism. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel sad, or angry, or frightened, or excited, or nervous, or happy. Emotions aren’t wrong, even negative emotions. But in our culture we tend to encourage shoving the negative emotions down and ignoring them. We tell our toddlers not to cry or whine or be afraid. We pretend our feelings aren’t hurt when we sit on the bench the entire game. Or, worse, we blame other people and refuse to face our feelings.

Working on emotions – how to identify them and how to respond to them – is a constant exercise in our home. My son used to have two emotional reactions to everything… extreme joy and extreme sadness. He didn’t know how to identify feeling mad, so he just wailed in despair. It was the same reaction for fear, frustration, and disappointment. So, over the course of time we’ve taught him how to identify his various feelings, which is a big step for us. But it’s merely the first step, because learning the tools to respond to our emotions is just as important as identifying them. 

Two years ago I remember sitting on the kitchen floor to make myself eye level with Mareto. I attempted to hold my own tears in as I tried to calm him down. He had been violently hitting himself in the face for about ten minutes because he rubbed a little pepper in his eye. Finally I got him to stop and when he collapsed into my arms we both cried and rocked there for several minutes. Mareto no longer hits himself out of anger, pain, or fear. I never want to go back to those days.

Now that Mareto is more verbal, we sing songs (courtesy of Daniel Tiger) and we talk about our emotions and how to act when we feel each one. Instead of throwing toys we walk away, sometimes roar a little, take a deep breath, and count to four. Sometimes Mareto needs to cry and he knows that’s okay. I always ask him if he needs a hug… usually he responds with a nod. We draw faces on the chalkboard and practice identifying their emotions and what to do. Some days we get it right, and some days we don’t. We’re learning together.

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I find that the term “differently-abled” applies very strongly here. We likely all struggle to deal with our emotions in a healthy way. Mareto tends to physically overreact to his feelings, and I try to stuff mine deep inside and pretend they don’t exist. I tell my daughter not to be afraid before I remember that fear is a perfectly normal, and healthy, reaction. Instead of insisting she shouldn’t be afraid I ought to be teaching her what to do when she feels scared.

In working through emotions with my children I’m reminded that it’s okay to cry and be sad sometimes. But, like I sing to them, “little by little, you’ll feel better again.” And it’s okay to have fears, but I still have to board the plane. One foot in front of the other, I can’t let my fear control my life. When  a rude email makes me angry I can’t fly off the handle or rant on facebook, I need to step away (roar privately), take a deep breath, and take quite a bit longer than four seconds to gain perspective. That’s why we’re learning together… because children (special needs or not) and adults could all use some help in this area.

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  • Lauren - I have taken anti depressants for the last several years and it’s been a real struggle for me to understand emotions. I have to try really hard to fight the temptation to panic when I start to feel sad and realize that it’s ok to feel these things and that it doesn’t mean I’m becoming morbidly depressed again, I’m just feeling the things that are a part of everyday life. I hope that makes sense. Mostly I just wanted to say thank you for articulating this about emotions and feelings :) ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - Just wanted to say, we love Daniel Tiger over here! ReplyCancel

  • The Day My Son Shared his Feelings with Me | - […] This guest post is from Lauren Casper, a mom blogger at Laurencasper.com. Lauren is the mother of two beautiful pre-schoolers, one being on the autism spectrum. You can read her original post here. […]ReplyCancel

  • Erica G - This is such an important topic. Thank you for sharing and for the reminder and encouragement.ReplyCancel

  • wynne - came back to read this after our week with camp. it’s so good. can we have a counseling lesson this week? i need parenting help in this area….but feeling empowered to teach my kids both of these things!ReplyCancel