Two of my oldest and dearest friends have a beautiful, brilliant, delightful, neurotypical three-year-old son. And sometimes I get insanely jealous.
You can tell Ben is the child of two writers: he's been dictating stories to go along with his drawings since he was two. He's very good at verbalizing what goes on in his imagination - even recalling dreams in the morning. Ben can have real conversations with his parents. He even reads a little.
Of course I'm thrilled for my friends that their son is so precocious and clever (and freaking adorable to boot!), but a little part of me aches whenever I hear their updates of Ben's adventures and accomplishments. I wish I were able to play "guess what I am" with my kid (Ben gave good enough clues that his daddy was able to guess he was "pink bubble wrap"). I wish Ryan and I could just hang out and chat. I wish he could tell me about his dreams.
I feel like a total jerk admitting my own jealousy, and I don't want to imply that I'm anything but proud of Ryan for being the best kid in the world. But deep in my fantasy world, when I imagined five years ago what it would be like to have a kid, I imagined a child much more like Ben than like Ryan.
In fact, I never imagined a kid like Ryan.
I don't think anyone who isn't already intimately familiar with someone on the spectrum would ever fantasize about having a child with autism. One reason I do not plan on having another child is that I don't think I could handle watching a typical child grow up along side Ryan. And I really wouldn't look forward to raising a child more restricted by autism than Ryan.
Although I beat myself up over my feelings,* I also realize we're only a mile into this marathon, so I'll have lots more time to work through them. We're only a year and a half post-diagnosis. The longest year and a half of my life. In that time Ryan has taught me more about patience, acceptance, and unconditional love than I had learned in the previous 33 years. He's highlighted all my flaws and forced me to deal with them.
I'm not proud of all of what Ryan has showed me. Apparently I'm judgmental, I can hold a grudge for years, I can't remember anything unless it's written down, and I have a nasty jealous streak.
But he has also helped me see the depths of my own patience and empathy, and my innate desire to learn and to share what I have learned.
Most importantly, Ryan has taught me to see myself as a work in progress, which is what allows me to acknowledge these feelings of jealousy.
And to let them go.
* I feel I must mention at this point that Stu keeps wandering in to check on me while I'm writing this. I showed him what I was working on, and now he's afraid I'm going to start perseverating on this topic too much and dissolve into a deep depression over this. I can't say his fears are without merit.