Fifteen years ago, I became an autism parent.
I had no idea at the time, of course. It would take another three years before I got the label anf he (and I) got the help we needed to navigate this strange, new world.
It hasn't always been easy. Any autism parent will tell you that. They'll tell you of the frustrations and fears. Of the challenges and big triumphs over tiny things. So no, it hasn't always been easy.
But sometimes, it has.
I'm too broke for a boatload of birthday presents? No problem! His current obsession is pencil sharpeners. A new Marvel-themed one of those and a pack of pencils, one DVD of a movie we saw together, and he's thrilled.
He and a friend, or his sister - or I - had a disagreement? No problem. The child simply cannot hold a grudge. We just start over, like there never was an issue.
I'm tired or not feeling well? He tucks a blanket around me on the couch. He sings to me. He strokes my hair. He tells me I'm beautiful, and he means it.
Bad day? No such thing. He won't hear of it. He radiates light, cracks your stoney mood with his infectious humor, aids you any way he can with a gentle voice and helpful hands.
He's your biggest cheerleader, unfailingly faithful to his friends and forever a ray of sunshine to this family.
No, it hasn't always been easy, but to be honest, some of the time it is just because of who he is.
Happy fifteenth birthday, buddy. You still amaze me every day.