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I remember hearing about a young married couple moving to a town several hours away.  With excitement and anticipation, they researched neighborhoods and real estate online, and finally narrowed their choices down to their favorite house.  Their realtor arranged for them to see it one Saturday afternoon, so they made the long drive across the state, eager to tour their future home, feeling like kids on Christmas Eve.

They met the realtor at her office and followed her to the neighborhood.  However, when the realtor pulled into a driveway and got out of her car, the couple was confused.  “This isn’t the right house,” the man told her.  “We were supposed to see a big white house with a front porch.  This house is blue with no porch at all.”

The realtor was just as confused.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.  “You told me you wanted to see the house at 1509 Greenwood Street, and this is it.”

They looked on the mailbox: the address was correct.  The man’s wife pulled a printout from her purse.  “Look,” she said, showing the realtor.  “I printed this from the Internet.  This is the house we wanted to see.”

The realtor examined the papers.  “I’m sorry,” she replied.  “I don’t recognize this house.  There must have been some error with our web site.”

“What do we do?” asked the man.  “We drove all this way expecting to see a different house.”

The realtor thought for a moment.  “How about you see what this house has to offer, since you’re already here?”

The couple agreed, and they followed the realtor inside.  Room by room, they explored and compared; it was different from the house they thought they were going to see, but not worse.  It did not have a front porch with a swing, topnotch appliances in the kitchen, or a finished basement with an office and game room.  However, it did have crown moldings and built-in bookcases, a cozy breakfast nook, and a screen porch in back overlooking a small pond.  The couple had not found the house they expected, but they had found something different, and they liked it even more.

This is how it is having a child with autism.  When you find out you’re going to have a baby, you’re full of excitement and anticipation.  You spend months planning for his arrival: stocking up on tiny clothes, decorating the nursery, imagining the countless moments you will share with him as he rolls over, crawls, walks, laughs, plays games, cuddles in your lap at night.  And when he arrives, you fall instantly in love.  You nurture him and watch him grow, even as the months pass and you notice that he is not reaching major milestones.  You wait patiently, you try to teach him, and then you find yourself struggling to reach him at all.  He becomes distant and mysterious.  You take him to the pediatrician, and you learn he has a disability, a pervasive developmental disorder.  You are in shock, and you grieve for the child you thought you would have.  But, time passes.  You find specialists to guide you, and you learn new ways to reach your son.  You find yourself wishing less and less for the child you expected, and instead enjoying the child you have been given.  And you realize, when you compare him to any other child, that you absolutely love who he is and would not change him a bit.  Like the couple with the house, you found something you like much more.  And you are amazed that God entrusted you with such a remarkable little boy.

And isn’t this true for parenting in general?  I see many fathers-to-be planning their sons’ football careers, or mothers-to-be researching ballet schools for their daughters.   Then, they end up with a son who prefers art over sports, and a daughter who spends hours practicing soccer.  Their parents are not necessarily disappointed, though; they merely adjust their expectations and find joy in their children’s actual personalities.  Isn’t this how God sees each of us, children and adults?  We will never be perfect while here on this earth, but thankfully, he does not expect perfection.  He places us here with various gifts and abilities, lets us find our own way, and loves us exactly for who we are.  And I feel blessed for it, and blessed that I learned this lesson by parenting children of my own.  Children who are not who I imagined they would be – children who are so much better.

Jessie Tucker Mitchell

Jessie Tucker Mitchell graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with Honors in English and Creative Writing. She has written dozens of articles for various publications, including Carolina Alumni Review, Our State, Business North Carolina, Cat Fancy, and babyzone.com. She lives in Winston-Salem with her husband, Robert, and their children Elsa, Truman, Fletcher, and Archer. Fletcher has autism, so autism awareness is an important part of their lives. Jessie and Robert feel incredibly blessed to be members of Reynolda Church.

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