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My Autistic Son Doesn't Know It's Mother's Day

Photograph by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

Having a kid with autism, I know better than to compare him to his typical peers. But I'm human and some days it's hard. Mother's Day is one of the hard days. It's a day, that I like to limit my time on social media because it feels like an endless stream of pretty pictures of perfect looking families, handmade cards, handwritten notes and cute craft jewelry.

My son, Norrin, is 10 years old. He knows on Halloween, he dresses up (well, sometimes), on Thanksgiving we eat turkey and at Christmas he gets presents from Santa. But Mother's Day means nothing to him.

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Yeah, Norrin knows that I'm his mom. If he sees a woman with a child, he associates her as a "mother." But the concept of "Mother's Day" is something he doesn't understand.

Two years ago, he made me a Mother's Day gift (a potted plant with a note) with a sweet card. I knew it was something he worked on at school, with the assistance of his teachers. I found it in his room on the floor, the note crumpled. He didn't understand it was a gift he was supposed to give it to me.

There's no doubt in my mind that Norrin loves me, I know he appreciates me. I don't need a card, plant or macaroni necklace for proof of that. But Mother's Day is just one of those holidays where I wish our lives were a little like everyone else's. It seems like the day just comes so naturally. I look at those social media moments between other mothers and their children and sometimes I'm envious.

I used to try to make Mother's Day special. Even though I knew the day meant nothing to Norrin, Motherhood is important to me, it is my biggest accomplishment and I wanted it acknowledged. I'd get dressed up, I'd make Norrin get dressed up. I wanted to make sure to capture my own perfect mother-son moment.

But as much effort as my husband, Joseph, and I put into making Mother's Day special, it never quite worked out that way. Norrin has difficulty standing still and gets frustrated if I try to take more than one picture. He's not interested in creating an Instagram-worthy moment. He didn't care about doing what I wanted to do, just because it was Mother's Day. Joseph would get frustrated with Norrin. Then I'd get frustrated with Joseph for scolding Norrin. And the day always ended up with me hurt and disappointed.

Last year, we did something different. We went out for lunch on Mother's Day with my parents and siblings. And after lunch, I left Norrin with my parents so that me and Joseph could go to the movies alone.

I remember sitting in the movie theater, looking around at the other families and feeling guilty. What kind of mother leaves their kid behind on Mother's Day to go to a movie?

Then I got over it.

As a working mom, I have enough guilt in my life. I shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to do something I want to do on my day.

I know I'm a good mom. I'm with Norrin all the time. Every day of the year is about my kid. I love being his mom and I have one day a year, to celebrate being a mother. I think I've earned the right to spend my Mother's Day, the way I want.

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The moment I took pressure off Mother's Day, the easier it was for me. I went to sleep that night feeling good about my day. There was no sadness, no envy, no disappointment.

Obviously, my preference would be to spend it with my son and husband. But I know that won't always be the case. I've learned that some years will be tougher than others. I've accepted that I'll spend some Mother's Days without Norrin. I'm OK celebrating motherhood with or without him. And he'll probably never know the difference—it will just be like any other Sunday.

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