Milestones.

Usually they are beautiful.

But with Autism they can be bittersweet.

I remember when my oldest daughter was young I would watch the other infants.

I would watch them play. I would watch them look into their mother’s eyes. They were calm. They slept. When they cried they could be soothed. Their mothers could take them out of the house.

And I wondered what was wrong with me as a mother. Why did it look so easy for the other mothers, when it was so difficult for me?

Everyone said, “All children are different. They mature in their own time.”

The Pediatrician wasn’t concerned.

And she was my first. And so even though something didn’t seem right, I doubted myself. How would I know what was normal behavior for a baby her age?

But then, as time went by, she began to miss more milestones. No babbling. No pointing. And the pediatrician said it was just an isolated case of speech delay.

I became pregnant with our third daughter. Our oldest turned 3. Still no expressive language with our oldest. Still no receptive language.

And I watched the other children. They were talking. They were pointing. They were learning, and laughing, and playing.

And I thought how lucky those others mothers were. And they didn’t even know it.

We went back to the Pediatrician. And this time the Pediatrician was concerned. Eventually the diagnosis came.

The dreaded A-word.

Autism.

Severe.

Our little girl had Severe Autism.

And our world came crashing down.

The grief came. The pain came. The sorrow came.

And the missed milestones came.

They began to pile up. I watched my middle daughter surpass my oldest daughter with ease. My middle daughter understood everything. She passed every milestone. She spoke. She understood. She played and laughed and looked in my eyes. She thrived.

And the milestones became bittersweet. Sweet, because my middle daughter was passing them. Bitter, because my oldest daughter could not.

I loved both of my daughters. But one was free. And the other was so lost in her silent world. I wanted both of my daughters to be free.

And so I rejoiced on behalf of my middle daughter.

And I grieved on behalf of my oldest daughter.

My oldest daughter turned 5. She made progress. Huge progress. And we were so proud of her!

But still, there was so much she could not do. It began to become apparent that even with help she may never have the ability to do even simple things that we take for granted. Things like having a conversation, understanding language or even having basic self care.

And so, eventually, another diagnosis came.

Intellectual Disability.

And all seemed lost.

Suddenly words like “life long care” began to be a part of our family’s vocabulary.

And still I watched.

I saw the pictures on facebook of all those little 5 year old girls heading off to kindergarten with their ear to ear smiles and their bright pink backpacks. I watched my fellow home school moms teaching their daughters to read and write. I saw them in their piano recitals, ballet recitals and swimming lessons.

I had been pregnant with all their mothers, but the differences in our children was astounding and heartbreaking.

And I thought how lucky those other mothers were. And they didn’t even know it.

Did they know what a gift it was that their children could do all those things? Did they know what a blessing it was that their children didn’t struggle the way my daughter did?

Everything came easy for their little girls. Why did their daughters get to wear pink glittery tutus and spin and twirl on stage while my daughter couldn’t even tolerate clothing?

Why did they get to take their daughters on family vacations while I couldn’t even take my daughter to the grocery store?

Why did their little girls get to learn to read and write while my daughter was still learning to understand, let alone speak language?

Why did their daughters get to trot off to kindergarten, so casually, like it was no big deal?

And I was jealous.

And angry.

And I knew I shouldn’t be. And I prayed. And I asked God to give me grace. To help me where I could not help myself.

By then we had 3 lovely daughters. My two younger daughters continued to pass all those milestones that I had yearned for.

And they still do today. What a gift that everything for them has come so easy. I am so thankful, for their sakes.

But there is one milestone they will pass that I dread.

Leaving.

One day my younger two daughters will marry. They will leave. And have children of their own. And I know they need to. That’s a part of life. That’s healthy. That’s what’s best for them.

And I will have to say goodbye.

But Oh, how I will miss them.

I will miss their smiles. I will miss those walks together on lazy summer evenings. I will miss cozy winter nights snuggled on the couch with them and hot cocoa at the kitchen table. I will miss reading with them, and baking brownies with them and talking with them.

I will miss sharing their life.

How will I say good bye to them? I will miss them every day.

But one day I will kiss them goodbye for the last time.

Another milestone.

Passed.

But this milestone my oldest daughter will not pass. She will never be able to live independently. She will be with us for the rest of her life.

And you know what?

I’m ok with that.

Because it means I never have to say goodbye to her. I get to keep my little golden haired girl.

Forever.

And boy am I glad.

I get to keep her giggles.

Forever.

I get to keep her smile. And her snuggles on the couch. I get to take walks with her on lazy summer evenings, forever.

I get to have hot cocoa with her on cold winter evenings for the rest of my life. We get to make brownies together, for the rest of my life.

Most moms don’t get that.

Most moms have to say good bye to all their little nesters.

But I get to keep one of mine.

What an unexpected gift from God.

The God Who gives, and the the God Who takes away.

The God Who is good even when all seems lost.

The God Who, in the midst of the sorrows and difficulties of Autism gives “treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places.”

So maybe all that time I was wrong about who the lucky mothers were.

Maybe I’m the lucky one.

And you know what?

I think I am the lucky one.

So thank You Jesus, that You are good, even when all seems lost.

Thank You for Silver Linings.

Thank You for treasures in the darkness.

Thank You for the hidden riches of secret places.

And most of all, Thank You Jesus for one of the the sweetests gifts,

The Lost Goodbye.

I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.”

Isaiah 45:3