Tears and glimpses of the moon

So many parents of children with autism are amazingly strong and resilient. We are skilled in advocacy and educating others. We can be almost psychic in our ability to anticipate behaviours and sensory reactions, or else uncanny in our ability to completely understand their origins after the fact.  We act as interpreters and translators between our children and the social world. We teach others. And we learn to measure success in the tiniest of moments.

I remember a time when H was about 5 or 6 and he had crawled into our bed very early in the morning. It was in fact so early that the moon was still shining brightly through our window.

H said,  “Mom… you can see the moon.”

Then he moved his body between my sleepy pillow face and the window.

His silhouette continued, “Mom you can’t see the moon now…” He waited for my confirmation.

He rocked back, “You can see it…”


And forth, “Now you can’t…”


And again… and again…

“Wow buddy, you are right. You are really imagining what I can see.”

I was so thrilled and amazed. It was a magical moment. H had just demonstrated Theory of Mind (ToM). He showed us that he could understand my perspective and he could envision what I could see from my point of view. He had figured out that he was able to block my view of the moon. This was so huge. I seem to recall that later on Craig and I had a whispered talk about what H had shown us, and even a happy tear or two.

To be around other parents who are living in this same world can give me strength. It is so wonderful to share ideas and resources, and to commiserate with others who share so many aspects of my experience.

We need to be a cautious lot however, because by surrounding ourselves with other strong and resilient parents, we may be unintentionally training ourselves to be too tough. We may become afraid to let our tears come… for fear that we might blow our cover and perhaps discover we do not really not belong in this esteemed group.

Perhaps, my membership will be revoked, and I will be exposed as a fraud…

When we were going through the diagnostic process with our son, I remember thinking…”I don’t want this to be my defining moment…” I remember also considering that this was selfish of me and I was afraid to admit it to anyone. I was so worried about my kid and his future and my future and whether or not I would be able to handle it.

If you are the parent of a child with autism… you have the right to weep once in a while and be less than perfectly able to handle it. That is not a product of your strength or lack of it…

I found that I had to let my tears out and honour that need in myself – or it would start to leak out at unexpected and sometimes inappropriate times.

I used to call up my mom every few weeks and completely break down over the phone. She did the best thing she could have done – she listened.

The little magical moments with this boy of mine can be so big…

And sometimes so can the worry…

sometimes it’s right to have a good cry…
it washes you
it lets some of the brittleness fall away
it is rain
it reminds you of your tender side
that it is still there
beneath the strength of survival mode
and though sometimes it is scary
to cry
because you wonder that you might never stop
if you give in and begin
it is better to be tender
it is braver
to not always be strong
and it is human
to hurt
and to worry
and wonder
and wish
sometimes it’s right to have a good cry…
it washes you
it lets some of the brittleness fall away
it is rain
it reminds you of your tender side
that it is still there

L. Kelley, April 2011


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in Autism, Behaviour, Diagnosis, Grief, Parent, Tears, ToM (Theory of Mind) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tears and glimpses of the moon

  1. suvarna says:

    well said Leah, strength is admirable but so is vulnerability, it’s good if we can find a balance. I love your poem, I think I see a song there too.


  2. Margo says:

    So true, and crying is something our children should see us do on occasion. It gives permission for crying as an appropriate outlet at times. Of course, then they need to learn when it is OK to cry and when they should “suck it up, buttercup”… But then there is a whole new debate as to who decides when it is OK?

    Very thought provoking. Your poem is lovely!


  3. Leah Kelley says:

    Thank you Margo and Suvarna for being so supportive. I always appreciate your insights and comments!!


  4. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely post and linking up on Blog Gems this week. You made me tear up a bit too, reading about your son’s beautiful discovery of perspective.


  5. Blue Sky says:

    People think I’m so strong and tough in real life, and it’s my blog that gives me the chance to pour my feelings out in words. Sometimes people really seem to relate to that, so I agree, it is important to let out your feelings somewhere x (over from blog gems)


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