When my oldest was born, I started calling him “Pud.” Once he got older, my husband quickly changed that to “Champ” and it is so fitting of who he is, especially as I look back over his 15 years of living. He has been and continues to be an incredible son – gifts, faults, rights, wrongs & all. He is also an amazing older brother to his three siblings. But his bravery stands tall too. The 10 years of Callie & autism and having to consume both at such a young age has so far been Champ’s test of time, and remembering the earlier days unfailingly causes me to weep. But these years have also been a time of growth for him, recognizing his brother’s worth as well as his own. . .and passing on the valuable lessons of respect & acceptance to others, including me.
I did not realize what my oldest was really crying out for was attention. I was missing it altogether. I was so engulfed with a diagnosis and the needs of Callie, that I felt under water, not knowing my eyes were slowly closing to my first born. I am his Mom – not just Callie’s. That fact slipped away quite often from me, but soon registered when I became painfully aware that I was losing my son. Emotionally, there was a disconnect – rightfully so. Champ loved me. He knew I loved him but felt not as much. Internally, there was a turmoil of loneliness and not being acknowledged. Not being heard. I lived with this misconception that no conversation and no complaints translated to no problem. I honestly thought he understood Callie, autism and me, but how could he? There was no real discussion. I expected acceptance from him without embracing his innocence, his confusion, his anger, his questions, his needs and his heart. Being overwhelmed at the time, I felt there was no room for explanation. We as a family were moving against time lost in the trenches and fighting for his brother, and there was a lack of consciousness of the ocean waves that seemed to be rising between me and my son. I assumed all was well. That’s what I wanted to believe. Autism had been placed in our hands and the initial emotions were paralyzing. Life, as we knew it, was swept away, and the apprehension of the now and being panic stricken about the future took over my whole being as a Mom. Consequently, the only true parent Champ could cling to was his Dad, and regretfully daily, my failures became a negative impact on him. For awhile, he didn’t care for his brother. Callie’s lack of communication, constant stares and his unbelievable obsession with puzzles caused him to be distant and frustrated. Having therapists, playing games & using sensory toys made matters worse, because to him, Callie wasn’t learning. He was playing. . . .and not with him. But one day, his eyes yelled across the room – “Hey! What about me?” .. . .and that spoke louder to me than anything else. I have one oldest son. One Marquise. One Champ. A change wasn’t optional. It was a necessity. It was time he felt my love wrapped around his heart. I had to be better than what I had been portraying. I had to love him beyond me. And even though I wore guilt & apologies on my shoulder, I didn’t mind. He had to always be able to turn around and see me in his corner. He deserved to feel comfort in my arms, warmth in my voice and support in my embrace. And I was determined that would never be in question. . .again.