By Tabitha Cabrera
My children have changed me in a way I will forever be grateful for.
When I think of our son Nixon, who is five, and our daughter, Nora who is almost three, I think of them as who they are as a whole, the qualities each carries. I think of them first as my children, of all the memories of baby giggles, squishy faces over first bites of food, of smiles with full cheeks, and watching as they explore the world around them.
As human beings, we are a web of life experiences, impressions that others have of us, skills, and qualities that drive who we are and who we will become.
When I thought of having children I hoped many things as new parents do. Would they end up with my blue eyes like me and their Dad’s dark brown skin? Would they play music like I once did, would like to be interested in books, and nature as I am. Would they be more introverted like their father and carry his love of facts, especially the ones in pop culture. Would the have great introspection like him wondering about all the what-ifs of the world.
Parenting is like reading the pages of a book that was highly recommended by others, written amongst the pages of great literature is a story told by others in their own words. A world of wonder, excitement, challenges and sleepless nights fill the pages. The description matches the author’s experience and feelings behind each word.
Until we hold our children in our arms we never truly know how it is going to be. As we parent our children our parenting shifts as they lead us with their beings in the direction that works for them.
In 2020, amongst the year of many firsts for us all, both of our children were medically diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Our son, Nixon in January 2020, and our daughter Nora in December 2020, 11 months apart to the day.
Our children are opposites in many ways, our son Nixon a watcher of the world, tender with all things around him, and just like him, his diagnosis took a tender timeframe. We had a variety of professionals talking to us about his development over a year-long wait.
Our daughter on the other hand has what I like to call a 70’s rocker vibe, a fierce taker-on-of-the-world kind of presence, something we absolutely love about her. Her diagnosis was fast, breathtaking, and surprising in a lot of ways. She had significant regression of skills at 18 months and lost all of her languages.
Each diagnosis came with its own set of emotions and processing time. It is hard for parents shortly after diagnosis of any kind to be allowed to have space to sit with their feelings. We need to jump into action, follow suggestions from doctors and professionals, and get any resources we can as fast as possible.
What I have found like the pages of one of those good books, is that with each turn we get the opportunity to shift the narrative. I got swept up in the feelings, appointments, and really late-night searches on the internet. What I realized is that I truly needed to just let myself be Mom to my children. I need to watch them take in the world, to watch their sleeping faces, to let go of some of the worries of what could be in the future. This is often easier said than done. I didn’t want to have all these feelings of wonder. I wanted to walk through Mothering with confidence and carry them through this life protecting them at each turn.
When you don’t have a guide or perspective on a situation you often land in a place of fear. As we learned more and more each day we gained more confidence in what our path would look like. We embraced the sensory toys, swings, and special items that surrounded our house. We started really keeping watch of how different our children viewed the world. We continue to manage advice from others, appointments, and piles of paperwork of thoughts on our children.
This is a part of our parenting path, did it take time to fully settle into parenting this way, yes. Did any of these feelings have to do with the way I felt about my children, no. This is true of all parents as they start to learn what works for their family.
I have learned the dance of non-verbal communication, I learned that the words written on forms are just that words, they don’t explain the love that is shared between a parent and their child. They don’t explain the love that is shared between me and my children. They also don’t explain all that my children are. There is something amazing about these kids, the way they almost have an ability to stop time with something they are interested in. The way the world around them can melt away as if they are the only ones existing in their space. As I spent time watching I started to understand more and more about who they are as people.
I have also learned, that those tiny hands that I imagined holding mine before they were there, the holders of the carefully picked out names, Nixon and Nora, my children, that steal a piece of my heart with each individual glance across a room, have changed me for the better in a way that I will be forever grateful for.
The pages of our book may have a different font and page color than the other books on the shelf but those are the books that show you what your life is truly meant to be. They leave you with deep rich lessons that you carry with you each day. We will celebrate this life because it is ours to celebrate, is it all easy, no is it all worth it, yes.
I live in Arizona, amongst mostly year-round sunshine and cactus. I work as an Attorney and enjoy spending time in a public service role. I share my life with my husband Nick, five-year-old son Nixon, and almost-three-year-old daughter Nora. I had found a passion in advocacy and paired this passion with my brother Mike Barnett to publish three children's books. "Do You Talk the Way I Talk?" and "Me and My AAC." and "What's the Commotion with My Emotions." I also speaks about family, mothering, and our autism journey on Table for Five, No Reservations podcast. I believe that each day you have the opportunity to spread a message and extend a hand to those in need. We share our family's journey on Facebook and IG @peaceofautism and blog https://www.peaceofautism.com.