Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

What Autism Has To Do With Butterflies

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, today’s post is brought to you by my friend Melonie.  Melonie was one of my best friends in middle and high school, and as I reminisce about all the numerous conversations we’d had about boys, weddings, and starting a family, I’m pretty sure that neither of us would have pictured ourselves in the lives we have now.  But I’m also equally sure that neither of us would trade what we’ve got for anything in the world!  Melonie has two beautiful children, both of which have been diagnosed with autism, so her passion surrounding this subject is obvious.  As for me, the school I taught at in my pre-kiddo days was a very small private school with very low student/teacher ratios – perfect for a child on the high-functioning end of the spectrum that would have gotten lost in the shuffle of a larger classroom.  Over the 8 years that I taught there, several of my students were diagnosed with Aspberger’s Syndrome, and I still feel a connection to those children and their families. 

Melonie and her beautiful family

Melonie and her beautiful family

The post I’m sharing today is an excerpt of a longer piece Melonie wrote back in August of 2011.  The first time I read it, it moved me to tears, as it captures a wonderful image of love, acceptance, and patience.  It’s a story about new life – in nature and in the heart of a beautiful child and her loving mama.  A perfect topic for spring, on the heels of Easter, and especially during Autism Awareness Month…

“Addie is perched on the edge of her seat nose to nose with the miracle that is unfolding right in front of us.  “what’s it doing mommy…what’s it doing mommy…what’s it doing mommy?”. After waiting for weeks for these little caterpillars to turn into a chrysalis and finally emerge as butterflies…it’s all happening.  Slowly slowly slowly…the butterfly is trying to crawl out of it’s comfortable chrysalis.  Addie is so excited she’s shaking…chewing her hair…her heart is beating through her chest.  Her little eyes are totally focused…not even blinking as she watches.  So here we are… just waiting and watching…

This looks like a picturesque moment…and it was…but leave it to my craziness to ruin it.  We were LATE for school.  I was sooo frustrated with these butterflies…”ugh after waiting all this time…and NOW you want to come out”.  So I began to pray…or more like silently shout at God…”oh Lord…please help this butterfly to hurry up…Lord we are going to be so late…”  Then as if an answer to my fervent prayers…another chrysalis starts to crack.  Addie is shrieking and flapping her hands…”mommy mommy mommy…it’s coming…it’s coming…it’s coming”.  Meanwhile, I’m silently about to pull my hair out…”AHHHHHH…not another one…I’m going to be late for work….”

Addie and her brother exploring together on the trail

Addie and Caleb exploring together on the trail

As I stood there pacing silently in my “mommy frenzy”…I felt God saying…just stop…  Look at this beautiful miracle that is right in front of you….look at this beautiful moment I’ve blessed you with.  I got a little teary eyed as the Lord revealed to me that I was missing this amazing moment….I was missing the Lord’s blessings…all because of my silly distractions…

Totally giving up…I sat down beside her…plopped my bags on the floor…and just stopped…stopped rushing…stopped thinking…just being in the moment.

As Addie was watching her butterflies come alive…I was blessed with such an amazing surprise.  I got to watch my own little butterfly come alive.  She was telling me the whole process…showing me the butterfly’s proboscis…telling me to hurry and get some oranges for it to eat…telling me about the blood pumping through it’s wings…telling me how long it was going to take for it’s wings to dry.  I was utterly amazed at how much she knew about these butterflies. 

I felt so guilty for almost missing this amazing moment with her.  “Thank you Lord…thank you for stopping me”.  The Lord was teaching me a lesson…you cannot rush a butterfly.  Addie and the butterflies are on God’s perfect time…not mine.

Addie has taught me so much in her 4 years.  But one of the most amazing things…is to just stop and wait….wait for her…wait on God…wait for my butterfly.

Addie takes a little longer to process change…to figure out how to get her shoes on…to find the words to say…to decide if she likes the food on her plate…to comprehend what you just said to her.  She may need a little extra time…but she can do it…she can come out of her chrysalis.  And it’s a beautiful thing.

Two butterflies :)

Two butterflies 🙂

“Addie go get your shoes”…..I hold my breath and count to 10…just give her a minute…I tell myself….my mind whirling…did she hear me?…did she understand?…Should I just go get them for her? Sometimes there is a long pause…or maybe she’s staring into the distance…and then after a few minutes she suddenly gets up and goes to find her shoes.  It sounds like a simple request…but for Addie it’s HUGE.  These little moments are milestones for her and we are overjoyed.  I have to remind myself what would happen if I hadn’t waited…if I had rushed her…she never would have learned to get her shoes.  It’s these little moments when she emerges from her chrysalis.  It gives me hope and I am so blessed to see her come alive.  It’s these little moments that she starts to become a butterfly. 

It may take Addie a little longer than most kids to do some things…it may take her a few more trys…it might take a picture or two…or maybe a social story…or her magic quiet ears…she may need a little more instruction and help…but she can do it.  She can come out of her chrysalis when she’s given the chance. 

When I wait on her…and when I wait on God…I am amazed with these beautiful life moments where I see a miracle.  I see a butterfly.”

We may not all have a child with autism, but I’m sure we all can relate to that inner tug at our heart strings telling us to SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY!  Maybe it’s to snag 5 extra minutes of snuggle time out of your cuddly toddler in the morning, maybe it’s to lend an ear to the latest teenage drama from your middle-schooler.  Or maybe it’s just to catch a glimpse of the sunset while holding hands with the one you love.  Life moves fast, yes, but MUCH can be gained from an exercise in waiting! 

Thanks so much to Melonie for letting me share her words of wisdom.  To read more of Melonie’s story via her blog, go here, and to learn more about autism, go here.  Meanwhile, please feel free to share a story of how you got to see a miracle of your own simply by waiting and watching.

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN