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A Glimpse Into My Son’s Magnificent Mind

  • July 11, 2020

His Majesty required bags, and bags he would have — diaper bags, suitcases, reusable grocery bags and more — which are packed, unpacked, repacked and toted from one location to another each day. Max’s bags have lived all over our house, in our cars, offices and every other space the boy occupies. Even now, at 9, Max often lets out a panicked, “Hold on just a minute!” when it’s time to leave so he can frantically pack a bag.

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Max’s autism diagnosis three years ago gave me an unspeakable sense of relief. When a friend asked me later that day how I was feeling, I could only describe it in this way: “I feel empty and full at the same time.”

After years of being dismissed as hysterical and overprotective, I welcomed the diagnosis as overdue validation. To be seen and heard is always humanizing, and as a woman in the world, I have confronted my own invisibility more times than I wish to recall. The diagnosis, in my mind, represented progress.

It’s a strange kind of answer that promises only more questions. But my love for my boy has never been in question — that day I felt as full as ever of gratitude for this child, even as I felt emotionally emptied out on his behalf. This is a paradox that continues. I empty myself for him and love fills me back up in overwhelming waves.

Though Max’s bag-stuffing frenzy has slowed (and we understand his neurology better than before), the state of my home, especially during his peak packing years, has reflected the state of my emotional life. The chaos was hard to accept and even harder to explain. Things were never where they belonged, which made the simplest tasks complicated. And no matter how early I tried to get us ready to leave when we had to be somewhere, we seemed destined to be late.

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