Nicole Miller is the mom of three wonderful boys, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. She recently completed her first marathon as a member of the Team in Training program benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She and her husband have been married for over 20 years and her family has been homeschooling for over 10 years. She enjoys running, cooking, vegetable gardening, reading and in her spare time, she sleeps. She tries to stay positive and is convinced that those endorphins from the running help a lot. She blogs about life and other miscellaneous things in her blog Mama's Ranting Now .
Being an Autism Mom is Like Running a Marathon
I'm a mom; I'm an autism mom, but that's not all who I am. I'm also a wife, a runner, a gardener, a teacher, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Sure, most of my time is spent being the mom of three wonderful, loving sons, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. But just as I refuse to be defined by my role as an autism mom, I also refuse to define my children by their autism spectrum labels. Ultimately they are children with unique abilities, who have interesting ways of looking at the world, and have an unbounded zest for knowledge.
My life as an autism mom is like running a marathon; just like running a marathon, being an autism mom requires a lot of endurance, commitment, training, and the ability to push through the difficult moments. And just like running a marathon, my life has its share of difficult moments, moments when I think that I can't go on anymore, wishing I could just keep running, knowing that I need to stop and get help in order to continue to the finish line, the ultimate goal, to complete my 26.2 miles of life, to have happy, healthy children who can enjoy life, and who will grow to adulthood knowing that they have a right to be who they are.
This past weekend I completed my first marathon. I figured that if I can take care of two boys with autism spectrum disorders, and if I can teach them at home myself, then running a marathon would be a piece of cake. Running a marathon couldn't be harder than running around between the various doctors and specialists to get help for my children. It couldn't be harder than homeschooling them because of their special needs. It couldn't be harder than having a husband who works long hours so we can pay for all the therapies needed to treat our children. Yes, running a marathon will be easy.
Was I wrong about that! Running this marathon was a humbling experience. I had ideas of how it would all go, when I would stop to drink water, when I would consume energy gels, how I wouldn't need to stop at a restroom, how I would react if I hit the wall, and how I would finish the marathon in a certain time. I certainly was not ready for my legs to cramp-up and stop working close to the end of the race. My spirit was willing to go on, but my legs had other ideas. During this time of my race when I was hobbling along in pain, a lot of the other runners kept encouraging me to continue, spectators standing by the sides kept cheering me on and calling my name, and right before I reached the finish line, I found that second wind and was able to start running again, to finish the race. I didn't finish the way I had planned, but I did it; I finished the marathon.
Let's face it, just like running a marathon is not easy, I can't pretend that mothering children with autism spectrum disorders is easy. Just like the time when my legs cramped-up during the marathon and I didn't think I could go on, there are days when I begin to feel sorry for myself because my life didn't turn out the way I had imagined. I have days when I envy the moms that can take their children to picnics, crowded museums, and festivals. Their children laugh, they enjoy themselves, and that's that. But, then there's my life, a life that doesn't include quiet days at the park with other mothers and their children, or days at busy festivals, or days hanging around with other families. Believe me, I've tried all those things and will probably continue to try them, but they mostly end up being stressful times when (as it's sure to happen) my eight-year-old son does something inappropriate or misunderstood by others, and I end up having to leave with him kicking, screaming, and throwing a tantrum.
Fortunately for me, my life is filled with persons like those kind runners that encouraged me during the difficult moments of the race, with doctors and specialists that help my children like my running coaches prepared me for the marathon, with friends and family like the people standing by the side lines cheering me on during the race, and with faith to continue, faith to endure, faith in God.
When you get right down to it, all moms have their challenges, their crosses to bear. We are all moms running to the finish line, the ultimate finish line: what's best for our children. Deep down we are all the same: autism moms, soccer moms, single moms, married moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms. We all have one thing in common--we are moms.