The Beating Of A Butterfly’s Wings


Last week, while my husband and I were on the road, we saw a man walking dejectedly away from a car that was in the emergency lane. We pulled over and offered him a ride, which he gratefully accepted. It turned out that he had run out of gas, and we took him to his nearby home so that he could enlist the assistance of his wife.

As we were driving him home, he said something that made me feel sad. He said, “I didn’t expect anyone to stop.”

I think it is sad that we live in a world where we expect our fellow man to not help us. All too often, we see instances of people walking past other people who need help. Have we all become so busy and self-involved that we just don’t have time to look around us and lend a helping hand? Or is this a manifestation of the “crowd mentality” that makes us assume that if we don’t do something, someone else will?

What we did for that man was so small. It cost us about five minutes of time, but it probably made a huge difference in how that man’s day went.

The very next day, I went out for a long run. It was cold and windy, and it was snowing a little. Because of the extreme winter that we have had, several of the sidewalks are still packed with ice. About six kilometres in, I was running along a relatively clear stretch, so I was able to build up a decent pace. A man walking towards me indicated that I should slow down.

“There’s a big patch of ice up ahead,” he told me. “It’s hidden under the snow. Be careful.”

I thanked him and adjusted my pace accordingly. As I gingerly picked my way over the ice he had told me about, I pondered the fact that if he had not taken the time to tell me, I could have ended up with a serious injury. Those five seconds of kindness possibly changed the course not only of that day, but of the next few weeks.

It has been said that the beating of a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane on the other side of the world. In the same way, just a few seconds of kindness can completely alter the course of the recipient’s day, week or month, and it can make the giver feel a whole lot better too. Several studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of happiness is the propensity to be kind.

My wish for all of you reading this is that you will take advantage of opportunities to be kind, and that you yourselves will be on the receiving end of kindness.

Tell me, what acts of kindness have you recently given or received?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Sephyr_Raon_Noxor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Sometimes Goals Change – And That’s OK


At the beginning of this year, I had some lofty plans. I was going to either launch a freelance business or become gainfully employed. I was going to run three half-marathons in addition to my first 30K. I was going to clean up my eating, once and for all. I was going to find ways to become happier, more fulfilled, and better at being me.

We are two months into the year, and so far, none of my goals are shaping up quite the way I wanted. Although I have been looking for and applying to work opportunities, my heart hasn’t really been in it. I’ve been feeling a little adrift, not really knowing what direction is the right one. In addition, as hard as it’s been financially, there is one aspect of my unemployment that I’ve been enjoying: having time to be a mom. I love being here to get my children ready for school, and I love being here when they get home. At some point, unless I can get enough freelance work to keep the wheels turning, I will have to give that up.

My running goals haven’t been panning out, either, largely because of the winter we have had. Months ago, I registered for the Around The Bay 30K race, which happens on March 30th, and I promised myself that I would set my mind to my training. It has been a lot easier said than done. To be fair to myself, I have tried hard, but the Polar Vortex had other plans for me. Because of the ice storms, excessive snow and unbelievably cold temperatures, I have been forced off the road and onto the treadmill. The few runs that I have managed outside have been challenging – running through snow, running through icy puddles of melting slush, falling on ice and hurting myself.

A couple of weekends ago, while I was heading to the gym for yet another long run on the lab rat machine, I suddenly asked myself how much I cared about doing this 30K race at the end of the month. On the one hand, I hate registering for races and not doing them. But on the other hand, how wise would it be for me to attempt a new distance right after the worst winter I’ve ever experienced?

As I did that run on the treadmill, I pondered the idea of bailing on the Around The Bay race and instead going for the Midsummer Night’s Run – also a 30K event – that happens in August. I mentally experimented with this notion, and discovered that I felt surprisingly comfortable with it. Not only does it feel comfortable, it feels right.

And so I found another runner to take my spot at the Around The Bay race and I transferred my registration to him. As soon as I received payment from him, I signed up for the Midsummer Night’s Run. Now I can comfortably ease myself into outdoor training, and I will have an entire summer to train for this new distance. It means that I will only be running two half-marathons this year instead of three, but that’s OK.

And that is really the whole point of this post – that there is no shame in changing a goal. This time last year, I would have been horrified at the thought of not running Around The Bay. I would have berated myself for deciding to cut a half-marathon from my schedule. I would have thought of myself as a failure, as a person who gives up. But something in me has changed in the last year. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser, or maybe I’m getting more realistic. Or maybe I’m simply realising that I deserve to give myself a bit of a break.

I still have some things to work on – like sorting out some kind of regular income, and developing eating habits that are consistently healthy. But I feel that in accepting and embracing changes to what I want to accomplish, I am at least moving closer to being happier with who I am.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


My Life According To Cars


The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

In 26 years of driving, I have had five vehicles, and each of them has represented a different phase of my life.

My first car was a clapped out old Renault. It took me through my young-and-stupid student years and the first few years of my working life. It wasn’t sleek and shiny like some of my friends’ cars, but it had a great deal of character and it was surprisingly reliable for such an old car. Its decline coincided with the retirement of my mechanic: when his replacement took over, my car started leaving the repair shop with new problems. When I made it onto the afternoon traffic report for blocking a lane of a major road, I decided to sell the car. A co-worker purchased it, fully aware of all of the problems, and restored it. As far as I know, it’s still on the road.

With the Renault gone, I bought my first brand new car – a sexy, bright red Opel Corsa. That was my Single Working Girl car, purchased when I was earning a good salary but had only myself and a cat to take care of. It was the car of someone who is a professional, but who is still young enough to be a little bit adventurous. When I left the country in 2000, my parents bought the car from me. They eventually sold it to a family friend, who is still zooming around in it.

When I came to Canada, I got the Desperate Newcomer car. What I really wanted was to buy a new Pontiac that I had seen, but the dealership wouldn’t sell it to me because I hadn’t been in the country long enough to establish a credit rating. I needed a car, but no-one, it seemed, was willing to sell me one. It didn’t matter that I had a good salary and no debt. Apparently, that somehow made me more of a risk. Eventually, I found a dealer who was willing to lease me a Chevrolet Cavalier. It was an OK car, but I was a little peeved that I had to just take what I could get instead of being able to choose.

The lease on the Chev expired when George was about a month old. When I returned it to the dealership, I discovered that the dealer had actually given me a very raw deal. It wasn’t really surprising – as a newcomer to Canada with no social support system, I had been a very easy target. It meant that I had to pay the dealer a lot of money when I returned the car (and yes, buying it at that point would have been prohibitively expensive). Because of that and the fact that I was living on maternity leave benefits (translation: half of my regular salary), I had no money to put into a new car.

My mother-in-law came to the rescue by giving me the old Dodge van that had belonged to my father-in-law. He had been dead for seven months, so he no longer needed it. The thing was just sitting in the garage. I accepted the car gratefully, knowing that it was on its last legs. It got me from A to B, and since I was on maternity leave, I didn’t have to worry about whether it would survive daily commutes of an hour each way.

That was my New Mom car, and although I only drove it for a few months, I have many happy memories of it. I liked the idea of driving my father-in-law’s car. I had been very close to him, and felt that he would approve of me using his car. Almost every day, I would buckle my new baby into his infant carrier, and we would go off in the van to the mall, the bookstore, the coffee shop, or a park. I had some wonderful bonding time with him, and the old Dodge had a big part in that.

About two months before George’s first birthday, the Dodge shuffled off whatever mortal coil a car can possibly have, and I had to buy another vehicle. My husband and I looked at several used cars, and picked out a Chevy Venture van that was just a few months old and had only been used for demo purposes. Getting a minivan launched me into the Soccer Mom category. It doesn’t matter that I got the van when my son wasn’t old enough to walk, let alone kick a ball. If you’re a mom and you have a minivan, you are a Soccer Mom.

We still have the Soccer Mom van, and it  has seen us through ten years of family life. Since getting it, the size of our family has grown by one. Kids have graduated from infant carriers to baby seats to high-back boosters to bum-only boosters to no boosters. We have driven our children to daycare, to Kindergarten and to grade school. We have taken business trips and gone on vacations, and covered many, many miles.

The Soccer Mom van is now a Soccer Mom rust bucket. One of the doors sticks when you open it, and neither of the front windows will open. Bits and pieces keep having to be replaced to keep the thing going, and the time is coming when we will have no choice but to replace the entire car. We will have to start seeing who has a good – and cheap – car for sale.

Our next car will the the Fraught Mom-Of-Teens car. Whatever make, model and colour we get, it will see us through more of the exciting journey of family life.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit to the author.


A Young Athlete’s Journey Of Discovery


Tomorrow, my 7-year-old son James will be trying out for his school cross-country team. As a runner, I am delighted. As the daughter of a former elite marathoner, I am downright thrilled. From wherever my dad is now, on the other side of the mortal divide, I’m sure he is smiling down on his grandson and namesake with pride.

Tomorrow’s try-out won’t be James’ first exposure to running. He ran his first race when he was just 5 years old. It was a 1km run for kids aged 5-12, meaning he was one of the youngest participants. He finished right around the middle of the pack, in seven minutes. It was a very good showing for a 5-year-old running his first race. About a year later, he ran another 1km race. He finished it in just under seven minutes, in spite of a large hill and the fact that there were hundreds of kids taking part. Then, this Spring, James made the relay team at his school.

So he is no stranger to athletics, and even at 7 years old, he kind of looks like a pro. Almost everyone who sees him run comments on how magnificent he looks. He has a beautiful natural form, a balletic fluidity that I can only envy. There is no awkward shuffling or ungainly loping. When James runs, he truly looks as if he was born to run. He is like Mother Nature’s model of perfect engineering.

What James has in pure physical technique, though, he lacks in strategy – at least where cross-country running is concerned. Strategy is something that is gained from experience, and he just doesn’t have enough of that yet. And so he makes the same mistake that I sometimes make, even with all of the miles I have on my legs: the mistake of taking off like a rocket and then running out of steam.

I have been trying to counsel him ahead of tomorrow’s try-out.

“Start slower,” I say, “And then you’ll be able to keep going for longer.”

But it’s so hard for him to understand. To a 7-year-old’s literal mind, it’s hard to reconcile the idea of going more slowly with the reality of racing. And my gut is telling me to go easy on the advice and give him enough space to discover for himself what his true running style is.

It is easy for me to be emotionally vested in the outcome of my son’s athletic efforts,  because it creates a link that unites him with the grandfather he never got to know. But I need to remember that he is not doing this for me. He is doing it for himself. He made the decision, without any prior discussion with me, to go for this try-out. It would not  be right for me to start having expectations, or to behave like the scary moms in shows like Toddlers And Tiaras.

I have already equipped James as best I can. I have advised him on strategy and pacing, and now it is up to him to go out and find his own way in his athletic endeavours. Maybe he’ll burn out in the try-outs and discover that he is better suited to sprinting. Or maybe he will find his rhythm and earn a place on the cross-country team.

No matter what happens, this is not my journey of discovery, but James’. I hope that he can learn from his failures and embrace the successes.

I already know that he has the legs of an athlete. Now it’s up to him (with Mommy close by, of course) to develop his athlete’s heart.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Magical Moments


Yesterday’s post was all about the poor hand that life has been dealing me lately. I feel as if the Universe read my post and decided to make some recompense, because today has been absolutely amazing.

It started with a run early this morning – a run that, funnily enough, I was a hair’s breath away from bailing on. I didn’t sleep well last night, and I woke up feeling – to borrow a wonderful phrase from a book I read – rough as a badger’s arse. I certainly didn’t feel up to running for 18km. But I knew that if I didn’t go, I would regret it. I would go through the entire day feeling a sense of incompleteness that would only be satisfied by running.

So I dragged my badger’s arse out of bed, blearily had some coffee and peanut butter toast, and hit the road. As soon as I started running, I felt better – helped no doubt by the perfect autumn weather. I decided to just enjoy the run without caring about my pace, and perhaps because of that, I clocked one of my best-ever times for a run of that distance – 1:59:43 for 18.23km. My legs were killing me, but I felt absolutely fantastic. I’d lost quite a bit of confidence in my running in recent weeks, and this run was just what I needed to restore some of that.

Later on, when I was showered and fed, I lay on my bed with my husband watching TV. Usually this doesn’t last for very long: I tend to be all antsy and wanting to get up and get things done, but today I was content to just relax. My husband and I sat there for ages, drinking cups of coffee and chatting about the contestants on The Voice, which we both enjoy watching. Neither of us was in any rush to go anywhere or do anything. We were content to just be with each other. With all the stress that’s been going on lately, there has been some inevitable discord, but today our frames of mind were in perfect harmony.

Eventually, we got up because the kids wanted us to put up their bouncy castle in the backyard. This involved first finding the bouncy castle, which hadn’t been used since March. After some rooting around in the garage and the garden shed, we located it. Miraculously, we found the motor in the same box, and then we were in business. For the next hour or so, the kids happily bounced around, and I basked in the sound of their laughter.

It’s the best sound in the entire world. How could I not be happy?

Since this morning, there has been a series of magical moments strung together to make a perfect day. It is impossible to dwell on the negative on days like this. Instead, I find it very easy to feel truly grateful for all of the richness in my life.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Ali Smiles 🙂. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Getting Through The Wipeout Zone


As I sit down to write this post, I am feeling emotionally bruised and mentally exhausted. The last few months have been rough. There has been a lot of life going on, and that life has included death and other forms of loss. I’ve been responding to it all in the way I usually do when things go wrong: by launching myself into frantic motion, partly in a quest to move forward, and partly because I’m afraid of inactivity.

What it means, though, is that I often don’t give myself enough time to process the stuff that’s happening in my life. Four months ago I lost my job. Within 24 hours I had an appointment to see a career coach, and the very next week I was knee-deep in résumé consultations and job-search workshops. Every time a life event has came along and knocked me off-kilter, I’ve just gotten up and kept going until the next thing has thrown me off-balance. It’s like being on an emotional version of Wipeout.

Eventually, of course, everything kind of caught up to me and I was forced to come to a screeching halt for my own safety. I had to give myself time to evaluate and plan, to have and resolve conflicts that had been waiting in the wings, and to go through the angst and the crying and the sadness that I had been trying so hard to fight. It’s made the last two weeks or so particularly brutal.

Of course, the world hasn’t come to a standstill while I’ve been going through all of this. I’ve still had laundry to do, meals to cook and a house to keep in some kind of order. Kids have gone back to school, IEP information forms have been submitted, a 10th birthday has been celebrated.

Life has gone on. And so, in spite of all the loss and gut-wrenching stress of the last few months, have I. I don’t believe in that line that “God only gives us as much as we can handle”, but I do believe that in general, human beings are resilient creatures. I’ve been through a lot worse than this in the past, and I’ve survived.

As much as it sometimes feels as if this rough patch will go on forever, I know that this too shall pass, and my life will return to a state in which I can wake up each morning and know that everything is OK.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Pengannel. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


5 Diversions That Keep Me Sane


Several years ago, shortly before George was diagnosed with autism, I realized that I needed a life. I can trace this realization to the exact moment it struck me. George, who was three, was at daycare, and one-year-old James was taking a nap. For all intents and purposes, I was alone. I was wandering from room to room picking up toys and gathering dirty laundry with only the background noise of the TV for company. The TV was tuned to TVO Kids because I had been too lazy to change the channel. An episode of Max & Ruby came on (for the uninitiated, Max & Ruby is an immensely annoying kids’ TV show featuring two child bunnies with unaccountably absent parents), and I actually sat down to watch because it was an episode that I hadn’t seen.

About three seconds later, I was struck by how ridiculous this was. Here I was, a grown woman with a university education, making a conscious choice to watch a TV show aimed at three-year-olds. What had happened to me? Clearly, I needed to take urgent action to prevent my brain from turning to mush. I decided to resurrect old interests that had gone by the wayside, and to start investing more time and effort into my friendships.

Since then, life has become more complicated for a variety of reasons, and so it has become even more important for me to have my me-time. Here are my five favourite things to do when I need to disconnect from the responsibilities of parenting.

1. Go for a run. I’m not sure whether it’s the fresh air or the motion, but there is something magical about the way running restores my mental equilibrium. This weekend, I was feeling an incredible amount of sadness. I went out for a long run, and when I got back I discovered that I had left the sadness out on the road somewhere.

2. Book, wine and bubble bath. This is my favourite way to unwind after a long day. When the kids are asleep, I run a bubble bath, and then I retreat from the world with a glass of wine and one of the Indigo Books new book releases.

3. Time with friends. The trouble with most of my friends is that they live in other countries. I don’t get out socially very much, but I still take whatever opportunities I can to grab lunch or coffee with friends. And for the friends who don’t live in the same city as me, there’s always Facebook. I have some amazing friends who I’ve never actually met in person, and those friendships are just as important to me as my “real-life” friends. While some people might criticize me for “wasting time on Facebook”, what I am actually doing is spending time with friends.

4. Learning new things. I am enrolled in a post-graduate writing certificate program, that I’m hoping will lead to a Masters degree program. Since enrolling in the program and successfully completing the first two classes, I have been reminded of how much I love to learn. Yes, it’s hard work, and I bitch and moan about deadlines and so on, but my complaints are really just hot air. I love being in school, and I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get from it.

5. Nocturnal TV time. I have bouts of insomnia from time to time, and there are few things worse than lying awake in the middle of the night worrying about stuff like whether your child with autism will be OK after you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil. When it feels as if the anxiety will overtake me, I get out of bed and curl up on the couch sipping wine and watching my Friends DVDs. Sometimes, all I need is a bit of solitude combined with feel-good comedy.

What are your go-to methods for escaping reality?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit: jonathanhoeglund. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


What Do You Tell A Child When Another Child Dies?




Last weekend, I received word that a friend’s seven-year-old son, Luke, was in ICU after a near-drowning incident. I kept near-constant vigil at my computer during my waking hours, anxiously waiting for updates, and when I got the news that Luke had died, I took it very hard. As a human being, as a parent, as the mother of a seven-year-old boy – this tragedy hit very close to home.

As I have tried to make sense of the emotions that have been swilling around in my head all week, I have grappled with the question of what to tell my younger son, James.

The concept of death is not new to James. He got a rude introduction to it in Kindergarten, when his teacher died of pneumonia. The teacher had been very popular among the kids; James had absolutely adored him, and had a hard time understanding that he’d never see him again.

In the three years since then, he has developed a reasonably healthy attitude to the fact that people die. He asks about his grandfathers and how they died, and he talks about angels and souls and stuff like that. He is sad when people close to us die, but he accepts that it is part of the circle of life.

This is different, though. Old people dying is part of the circle of life. Children dying is an idea that just doesn’t fit. The mere thought of it has a jarring effect, as if you’re listening to soft classical music and hear a sudden blast of ear-splitting heavy metal. I wasn’t sure if James was ready to be introduced to this concept, especially since he had never met Luke.

Just as I had decided not to tell him, he came up to me as I was looking at a picture of Luke that his mother had posted on her Facebook wall. He asked me about the little boy in the picture, and I found myself telling him that Luke was now an angel. This led to a discussion that was hard for both of us.

For all his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to life, James is a sensitive child with a natural sense of empathy, and he was genuinely sad as he looked at Luke’s picture. He talked about how he’d never get to play with Luke, and he expressed concern for Luke’s mother.

“She must be so sad,” he said. “Is she going to be OK?”

I told him that yes, Luke’s mother was very sad, and I assured him that she had lots of people around her who would make sure she was OK.

There was a pause, and then he said, “Mommy, if I died, would you be OK?”

I couldn’t answer him. I was too busy trying to hold my rapidly dissolving composure. I just held him as close to me as I possibly could.

A few minutes later, his little voice piped up again.

“Mommy, I’m scared. Kids can die, and there are so many ways to die.”

This was a tough one. How was I going to strike the balance between realism and reassurance? I couldn’t say, “Don’t worry, it won’t happen to you or your brother”, especially since this whole discussion had arisen from an unexpected tragedy. And I couldn’t say, “Yes, accidents can happen at any time”, because that would freak the poor child out and make him afraid of leaving the house.

And so I decided to focus on probabilities. If we only cross the street when the pedestrian light is green, there’s far less chance of being hit by a car. If we don’t answer the door to strangers, they won’t kidnap us. If we eat the right foods and run around in the back yard every day, we will get sick less often and we’ll get better faster.

In other words, staying safe and healthy does not guarantee that something won’t happen, but it does vastly improve our chances. It’s good to be cautious and mindful of potential danger, but we have to live our lives.

As I spoke to James, his fears seemed to ease. Since then, he has returned to the topic a few times, and as hard as it is, I am glad that the original discussion opened a door for him to talk about a subject that is important.

Later on that day, James came up to me and said, “Mommy, I’m still sad for Luke’s mommy, but I’m not so worried about her anymore.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because Luke is still alive in her heart, and he can hug her from the inside.”

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. The picture of Luke is reproduced with the kind permission of Janice Zimmerman.



I Feed My Kids McDonalds, And 9 Other Confessions

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During the first two days of my firstborn child’s life, as I lay in hospital with nurses bringing me food and taking the baby to the nursery so I could get some sleep, I had daydreams about how the whole parenting thing would go. I would breastfeed for a full year, and as the baby grew older, I would raise him on a diet of nutritious foods. I would interact with him, play with him, talk to him – he would not need to watch TV. I had visions of lovingly picking him up whenever he cried, never letting him sit for long in a wet diaper, reading to him every day right from the time we brought him home…

I mean, good parenting was just common sense. How hard could it possibly be to be a model mom?

It turns out, very.

What I failed to recognize in those early weeks was that there was no way I could completely give myself over to parenting. There were going to be times when I would have to do other stuff, like laundry, vacuuming and personal hygiene. And let’s face it, isn’t parenting supposed to be at least partly about the fun stuff, like letting your kid smear chocolate cake all over his or her face?

So here are some “confessions” – and I put that word in quotes because it implies wrongdoing that I do not believe I am guilty of.

1. I feed my kids McDonalds. Not every day, obviously, but from time to time I let them eat junk food.

2. I often let my kids watch TV because it’s convenient for me. They’re good at self-regulating their TV time so I really don’t care about that “Don’t let the TV be your babysitter” thing.

3. I yell at my kids. It’s not like I’m constantly screaming, but when they drive me insane I just cannot do the Zen-type of parenting that other moms seem to be capable of.

4. I sometimes reward my kids with material things. I’m not too concerned about whether this is teaching them to value the wrong things.

5. If my kids don’t eat the meals that are put in front of them, I don’t give them an alternative meal. If they go to bed hungry, so be it.

6. I don’t play with my kids every time they ask. If I did, I would never get to sit down for a cup of coffee, write a blog post or take a shower.

7. I don’t always lead by example. I’m completely fine with my kids learning that they have to follow certain rules that do not apply to adults.

8. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but sometimes my husband and I have arguments in front of the kids. It doesn’t bother me: on the contrary, they are learning that every healthy relationship includes conflict and the resolution thereof.

9. I love my kids unconditionally, but there are times when I don’t like them very much. Frankly, they sometimes act like little jerks.

10. I sometimes lock myself in the bathroom to avoid having to share chocolate.

Do these things make me a bad mom? Or do they simply make me human? Do you have any confessions of your own to share?

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


If He Didn’t Have Autism…

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The boy plops down beside me on the couch and puts his hand on top of my head. He is preoccupied with my hair, to the extent that my lengthy locks have to spend most of the time living in a scrunched-up knot. Today, however, my hair is down, and the boy is making the most of the opportunities this provides.

As he runs his fingers through my hair, sometimes twirling, sometimes tugging a little, a thought runs unbidden through my mind.

If he didn’t have autism, who would he be? What would he like to do? Who would he play with? What summer activities would he ask to be signed up for?

Almost instantly, the thought is gone. I realize that it doesn’t matter. He is who he is. He is himself. He likes to play on his computer, assemble endless Mr. Potato Heads, and read his Biff and Chip books. He loves his family and enjoys playing with his little brother until the party gets rough. When he needs downtime, he’ll take a blanket and pillow outside and lie down on the back lawn. He likes junk food as much as the next kid, and he can go through endless quantities of milk. He’s not big on watching TV, but he loves going to the water park. He plots world domination with his brother and doesn’t always listen to me.

In other words, he is a kid with likes and dislikes, odd little quirks, and attachments to the people he loves. Just like anyone else.

Autism is a part of who he is, but it does not define him. If he didn’t have autism, he would be himself, just the way he is now. Maybe he would be a more social, verbal version of himself. Maybe he would play with other kids and be in a sports team. Or maybe he wouldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Asking myself what he would be like if he didn’t have autism is as pointless as asking what his brother would be like if he did have autism.

As he sits on the couch playing with my hair, I look over at him. He has a dreamy look in his eyes and a winning smile on his face.

He is himself. He is happy.

He is mine.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle. This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle.)