I’ve put off having a professional family photo (and Christmas cards) for 5 years – ever since we received our son’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
Pictures are incredibly difficult and adding in a non-family member taking it has felt overwhelming. The anxiety the process causes didn’t feel like a true reflection of our family or my sweet child. All I saw was the deep hurt of a family struggling with autism.
This year has been transformational for us. For now, the seas are calm. I’ve personally found some peace with who my son is and how we parent and thrive as a family.
We don’t always look like every other family and certainly not a “perfect” family. And recently, that has become OK for me. In fact, in so many ways, autism has forced me to become a more thoughtful and deliberate parent.
We don’t do the things that many typical families do – but we get to do a lot of things they can’t do. Team sports are just not worth the struggle…and that frees us up for family outings and time together at home. Few children have the attention span or interest for things like museums – but our son and his brother do. We did the Smithsonian two days in a row. As a parent, I delight in seeing my child deeply appreciate an experience – no one appreciates things like our son with Asperger’s. If you can get him interested, he will love it. And he is the greatest planner. We love inviting the kids into the process of scheduling and planning our days, weeks, holidays, vacations, etc.
Well, family photos last week were not one of the things our son loved. It was a difficult hour and he put his worst foot forward. Although the photos don’t reflect the happy child I know, they are beautiful – and they show who we are: a family. A family in front of a camera having good and bad moments. But we are there.
When our son saw the photos, he immediately apologized for not smiling and reiterated he just doesn’t like having his photo taken like that….and then he said he would do better. And he agreed to a selfie in which he smiled.
I love that kid. Despite his anxiety, he keeps trying.