Tonight I looked at my baby as he lay on the couch. Long legs stretched out so his head lay on one end if the couch and his feet touched the other. And I marvelled at how not too long ago he was so small he could sleep in my arms. Remembered how he would wrap his tiny hand around my finger and nestle in for a snooze.
It seems like years have passed by in seconds, yet moments are frozen in time. Sometimes I wonder what makes a moment last forever. Big moments like when we took him home from the hospital for the first time and he cried the whole way home. Big moments like when he started school for the very first time. Big moments like the day he was diagnosed with autism. But small moments too. Like the day we were sitting on the floor when he was about 14 months old and he whipped through some preschool flash cards and shocked me with his knowledge. Like the day we drove down the highway with the windows down and his one tiny curl was blowing in the wind. Like the time he made me a cup of tea for the very first time. Like when he brought home his first perfect math test.
Moments happen daily. Sometimes we miss them if we aren’t careful. It’s in these moments that we see life. It’s in these moments that we experience love, anger, frustration, heartache, joy. And sometimes, in these moments we experience all of those at once.
Like today, when we were at Costco and he wanted a sample of stuffed chicken. I was checking my list and he asked if he could go. It wasn’t two steps away from where I was. He reached for a sample and the employee snapped at him asking if he was with an adult. Taken aback he put the sample he was holding back on the tray and walked back over to me. She rolled her eyes, threw it in the trash and mumbled something under her breath I couldn’t hear. I asked him what she’s said to him and he told me. Jilted, I told him he was indeed with an adult and to walk over and get his sample. He went back and told her he was with an adult and reached for his sample happily while she just about reached out to take it from him as I stepped beside him. She rudely asked if I was with him and I said yes. She proceeded to tell me I needed to be with him before he could have a sample in the rudest way possible. In this moment, my mama bear was awakened and I wanted to punch her in the face. He finished his sample, turned to her and to her surprise and mine said, “that was delicious! Thank you!”
The whole exchange hurt my heart so much. Maybe it’s because he’s been misinterpreted as a bad kid one too many times. Maybe it’s just because he’s nearly a teenager and people tend to group them all in the same troublemaker category. But my mama heart was wounded. Maybe I’m overly emotional – in fact, I probably am. I love my people fiercely. But what he did, that changed everything.
The thing is, he has worked incredibly hard to do what he did today. Social skills don’t come naturally to him. A few years ago, this exchange could have gone very differently. But it’s not even the social factor or the way he’s learned to navigate interacting with others. Today, I could see the Holy Spirit working in my son.
Contrary to popular belief, people with ASD aren’t completely clueless – they can understand when people are making fun of them and when they’re not being treated well. Two years ago, he might have had a meltdown. But today, he kept his composure, looked at this cranky Costco employee and treated her like Jesus would have – with grace.
I’m ashamed to say that my son chose to be gracious and I didn’t deserve to witness it because I wasn’t in the mood to be gracious. But I’m so thankful I did, because it gave me pause and I had to examine myself and my heart. Right there in the frozen foods aisle at Costco.
And so tonight, when I looked at this almost teenager as he was laying on the couch, I thanked the Lord God for giving me my sweet son. I thanked Him that I was able to see the Spirit at work in his life and it spurred me to pray for more of that. For more moments where he teaches me a thing or two about grace. And to pray that our moments will be ones I’ll remember for years to come, to tuck away in my mama’s heart, for times like this.