Today is no ordinary day. Today marks three years since the first time we met, the first time the world began after Oliver Michael Reed. It’s hard to believe that in this after, three years have come and gone. Time is an odd thing that way. One moment you were this intangible idea I had, the “bonus baby” that I wanted so badly to make our family complete. Then suddenly, you were here, making our lives rich and whole, and time just flew away. Now it’s hard to even remember how life was without you. No doubt it wasn’t nearly as loud. or as lovely.
Ollie, this letter is not just simply about the milestones you have reached this year. This letter is instead a celebration of our life together as I’ve watched you grow from two to three. I want to write all about how much magic you’ve brought into my life this year. I want this letter to be filled with all the ways you’ve made me laugh, all of your misadventures, your curiosity, your innocence, your never ending quest to drive me mad, and your sheer determination to never take “No” for an answer. I’d also like this letter to be the written start of our voyage into what might turn out to be an Autism diagnosis for you. You’ll never know how hard it is to type those words. My heart is filled with sorrow, I feel as if I am in mourning for something that has not yet happened. Yet at the same time I am filled with so much hope, because this is a trip we’ve taken before. Yes, you are a different passenger, this is very true. That fact only makes that hope stronger though. The starting line for you is in a completely different place than it was when we started with Gavin. I only have to look at your brother’s success to know that things will be okay for you. I have to believe that.
Even though we’ve been here before, I didn’t know until this year that you could be both broken and whole at the same time. For so long I told people we dodged this “bullet” with you. That you were fine and I was so glad for that. All the while things were heading in another direction. When my suspicions became a reality I was so angry. I was angry that God could allow this to happen to you, to our family again. I was so hesitant to have you, well not you, but another baby. I was so scared that if I got pregnant again and that the baby ended up having Autism, I wouldn’t be able to do it again. It took me a few years to make the decision to finally get pregnant because I had convinced myself that there was just no way God thought I was strong enough to take on another child who needed more of me than I had to give.
It’s when I think of this moment in time, this fleeting thought, that I took for an answer to my prayers, that I wish life were written in pencil so I could go back and erase that doubt. What I didn’t know then, or rather who I didn’t know then that I do now is you. The moment you were born everything became irrelevant. Ollie You came into our family and you filled this emptiness within me that I never even knew was there. While this journey is one that is full of so much grief it can fill your heart to burst, it’s not the only aspect of who you are. You are so much joy. You are this beautiful mix of warmth and strength, all wrapped up in a strawberry blonde haired little boy. The things that make you Oliver are 1% speech delays, sensory issues, and tantrums, and 99% wonderful. How could I think for even a minute you wouldn’t be worth it? To travel this unknown road with you is worth any cost or sacrifice, just as long as I get to have a front row seat to watch your life unfold.
Ollie, I want you to know that I am an imperfect person who doesn’t always know what she’s doing. I get overwhelmed easily and I can be selfish. But I want you to know that when it comes to you and your brothers, there is nothing I can’t do –nothing I will not do for you. God gave me you and I can’t believe what a gift you are. My life is defined by the legacy that is my children. My promise that I will do my best for you to grow up happy and have every opportunity is all I want in this world. If I had to do it all over again, I would always pick you.
We don’t yet know what we are dealing with. You seem to have a lot of autistic like characteristics, but at the same time you developed normally until you were almost 2 ½. I’m not going to say that it has been easy to hear that you are delayed, far from it. You are entering the realm of “preschooler” figuratively and literally. You will be starting preschool on Oct 28th and attending three days a week for three hours a day. I’m so thrilled for you because you will be attending the same preschool Gavin attended when he lost his way and needed to get back to us. It’s the most fantastic preschool and I am so thankful you get to have the same opportunity. While you attend school they will help you with your speech, your sensory issues, you’ll receive some occupational therapy, and most of all you’ll get a chance to socialize with other children. I am full of anxiety to let you go, I must admit. I know you will be in good hands, the best hands really. It’s just so hard to picture you doing something during the day that I am not a part of. Up until now I have been your entire world. You have been all mine and I haven’t had to share you with the world. Now, you’ll have whole chunks of time that will just be yours, memories that belong only to you. To me you are still so little and I thought we’d have more time together, just the two of us, before I sent you off to school. I know it will be an adjustment for us both Ollie, maybe more so for me than even for you.
Your speech is coming along. Although you were our earliest talker and last year you were saying more than either of your other brothers were at that age, you sort of stalled out. That’s not to say you don’t say anything. You have a lot to say, it’s just on your own terms. You still have a lot of cute “isms”. Right now you love to say “Hola Mommy” to me as a way of greeting. You always ask me “What’s wrong Mommy, what’s wrong?” , as if you can sense my ill mood. You call chocolate milk “Milk chocolate”, hotdogs are “D-Dogs”, noodles are “Noo-nooles”, and smoothies are “Movies”. You call your bedroom your “Nigh-Night” and anytime anything is missing you always say “Is it in the Nigh-Night?” You refer to yourself in the third person and call yourself “Oliber”. You’ll say things like “Oliber made a mess” or “Oliber colored on the walls”. You are starting to piece together more and more full sentences and every day I feel like you are improving on your verbal communication. I sure am going to miss your ism’s when they are gone though. I already miss so many that you don’t use anymore.
You’ve changed so much in the past twelve months Ollie. It’s hard to believe you are that same two year old child who had a mop of blonde hair. Physically you have nearly shed all that was left of what still made you a baby. All that’s left is your diapers and the little dimples in your pudgy hands. This doesn’t deter your Dad from still calling you “Baby” or from me asking “where is the baby?” when I can’t find where you’ve gone off to. I think we will forever think of you as our baby. It’s hard to let go of that.
Music is all the rage for you this year, and all day long I love to hear you sing! It started with dance parties in the kitchen. I’d play songs from my iTunes list and we’d dance as a way to break up the day or to get you to tire out before bed. It turned into you having a constant need to listen to music. I loaded up your iPod with all of your favorite songs (currents include “I’m Alive” by Peter Furler, Rihanna’s “we found love”, “Starships” by Nicki Minaj, and a slew of children songs) and you would listen all day long. I have fallen in love with your singing voice. It’s just incredibly precious! Whether you’re singing “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, “The Alphabet Song” or “I wanna tank you, tank you”, I get such a kick out of listening to you. I’m so thrilled that music makes you so happy. I hope this passion continues as you grow. I can picture you playing piano or maybe the guitar some day.
You are so incredibly smart! I am not just saying this to be one of those braggy mom’s either (although I am). You really are a sharp kid. You learned your alphabet not long after your second birthday, and soon after you could recognize both upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. You know all your letter sounds and you can identify what letters words start with if we ask you. You recognize your numbers and we aren’t entirely sure how high you can count. I know for sure it’s at least to forty, but it could be higher. You know all of your shapes, even those random ones like trapezoid and hexagon. You have this insatiable need to learn.
You have become more fearless, more of thrill seeker than you’ve been in the past. You climb to the highest points of playgrounds, you love hanging like a monkey from the bar on the treadmill, you’re always doing things that make me nervous, and you know it too. You love to push the boundaries, not that this is new, you’ve always enjoyed pushing your boundaries. Every single day you come up with a new way to wow me with your naughtiness. Lately your favorite thing to do is to squirt shampoo all over the bathtub, floor, and yourself until the bottle is empty. Since you are such a skilled climber, you just climb right up the shelves of the closet and pick a fresh bottle of shampoo to use when you’ve finished emptying the other one. You love to flush your brothers floss sticks down the toilet, or really anything you can find that will flush down. You love to use their toothbrushes to brush your teeth or the floor. You love to just go and dump out toy boxes just because and you have no self control when it comes to keeping the books on your bookshelf. Some mornings I come into your room to wake you up and it honestly looks like you’ve hosted a frat party in there. You are more mischief than God meant to bottle up into one heart, and you make sure you let me know this. I try every day to find the trouble you get yourself into endearing. Boy do you make it hard!
You live your life for chocolate milk, the leapfrog movies, and prefer not to wear any pants, even when we are going out. You are always on the go, always making messes, and even though you say to yourself “crayons only go on paper”, they somehow always end up on the walls. You love watching youtube video (really boring ones about kids putting puzzles together), putting together peg puzzles, and playing the wii. You insist on eating your yogurt with a fork and you won’t drink from a sippy cup unless we first stick it into your mouth. You drive your brothers crazy but you love them so much! You are strong will and what I imagine bliss to look like if it had the face of a little boy.
Ollie, you have grown into this big and mighty soul. I look at you and I know there are no words I can write to adequately describe to you the love my heart holds for you. No matter how hard the week was, or how hard the year has been for us, for you., you will always put a smile on my face. You are the reason I can get through the tough times; you’re my motivation for everything. I’m grateful every day of my life for this amazing, perfect little person that is you.
What a privilege it is to be your Mom and to experience life through your eyes. It is the greatest gift you could ever give me.
I love you with all of me and more,