I keep seeing the same thing, day in and day out when I close my eyes at night and it breaks my heart. I see a little boy, busting out a tune on his harmonica that only he could perform. Giving it everything he has, but feeling defeated because he just wasn’t good enough to take home the prize. We can’t all be the winners, and it’s an important lesson to learn. But when it’s your own son, you wish he wouldn’t have to.
I never knew my heart could break so much, could ache so much before I became a Mom. I also never knew that it could burst with happiness and pride until the first time it did. It’s a funny thing, the heart.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the future. I try not to, I really do. Because the future is so uncertain, so delicate. We don’t know what it will bring. We don’t know the heartache and joy we will experience, and if someone could truly tell me I’d be afraid to ask. Because as an autism mom, sometimes you don’t want to know.
Like today, when the boys and I were baking cookies. The hand mixer was overheating, and I told them we’d have to give it a break. We talked about the motor inside, and I mentioned the one their aunt and grandmother owned had a more powerful one. They insisted we get one, but I explained that KitchenAid mixers were quite a bit more expensive that my handheld Betty Crocker one from Walmart. Then I said words I can’t take back, words I wished I’d never said. “I can’t afford it, but maybe some day when you’re making the big bucks you can buy me one for mother’s day and I’ll make cookies for my grandchildren.” I was thinking of the future, that uncertain time. I was voicing hopes and dreams that died long ago that somehow resurrect themselves from time to time, when I least expect it.
In truth, I was thinking about my oldest who dreams of being an engineer. He could be, someday. Always thinking, that one. The wheels are always turning. He’s a logical thinker, sometimes too much. He loves figuring out puzzles. I still think about the way his face lit up when he saw his very first blueprint. I don’t worry too much about his future, really. But I still wonder about a wife and those grandchildren.
Today, I was blindsided by my younger son. My boy, who is so much like me, it breaks my heart. He dreams of being an artist. He’s hardly ever without a marker in his hand. He’s filled dozens of sketchbooks over the years, colorful pages that tell a story. He’s creative, but he’s also so full of joy. He’s fearless – he’ll try anything once. He’s friendly, making a pal wherever he goes. But he’s sensitive, and his heart breaks often. Just like mine. All of this just like me. At the same time, he’s got some challenges. Struggles that mean he’s never going to be good at math. He’s probably not going to have the same kind of skills as his brother. I know that is normal, I know it’s okay. But if I think about his future, I’m terrified. It’s a big, black hole.
I always thought as parents, we need to lovingly guide and direct them as they pursue their interests and hone their skills. I know my parents did that for me, and at his age I was already writing. But he’s just a question mark. An unmarked path. He is so willing to try anything, and he gives it his all. He’s not always as successful as he would hope. He says he’s the best at losing, but I don’t think that’s true. I think he’s the best at trying.
I know he’s only ten, but it’s hard not to notice his classmates and friends carving their paths. Winning awards and accolades for all their accomplishments. It’s hard not to get caught up in the fact that he hasn’t found the one thing that he’s excellent at, the one area that might propel him into his future. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep at night because he wants to do big things that he may never accomplish.
But then my heart remembers a favourite verse from Proverbs. One that has molded and shaped my life. One that pops up all over my story.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
I’ve made plans so many times that seemed perfect and good, but the Lord has turned them around completely. All for my good and His glory. Time and time and time again. God always has a way of shaping my plans into something far better than I can imagine. If He does that for me, why do I doubt He will do it for my sons?
A few weeks ago we were away at our church conference. Someone mentioned in passing they had a vision of youth who would learn languages to bring the gospel to those who needed to hear it. My heart leapt at the thought that could be meant for my son. The creative one, who loves to draw. Who also can carry on a conversation in Chinese with a stranger at a hotel because he’s good at learning other languages. I don’t know if that is part of his path, but suddenly I felt my broken heart mend a little. Maybe not because of this journey that may or may not include my son. But because I remembered that God has my little boy’s life in His hands. And if my son listens to where the Spirit leads, and follows after Him, everything else will fall into place.
At the end of the day, when the last of the cookies had been put away, I knew this truth in my very soul. I don’t care if he doesn’t make much money. I would love grandchildren, but if I never have any it will be okay. I’ll put all those dreams away if my son just lives for Jesus with his whole heart, following in whatever path He’s laid out. I want that for both of my sons, always.
It’s a million times better than any KitchenAid mixer.