Parenting is the hardest job.
Yup, it's true. Ask any parent.
You are responsible for a little life, for nurturing it, guiding it, teaching it, loving it, defending it, nursing it, you name it.
I have had glimpses of what it is like to raise a neurotypical child. Glimpses with friends and family members who have little angels of their own.
To parent an autistic child shares many common similarities.
But then there are many uncommon similarities - only those that can really be shared with many other autistic families.
Those moments of having to forcefully hold your autistic child so that you can cut his toenails while he screams, "no, no, help me!"
Those moments when you are so proud he is using those words in the right context even in such a traumatic situation!
Those moments when you have had to repeat back to your child, "shooting Tom", for the 700th time in an hour, or he becomes upset and bangs his head against the wall, in frustration.
Those moments when your stomach is in a knot because you hear his vocalising changing into aggressive grunts and you don't know what will happen next.
Those moments when a neighbour asks how your son is doing and expresses their worry that he isn't getting enough social interaction, making you feel like the shittiest parent and making you question yourself if you are really doing enough.
Those incredible moments when another neighbour rings your doorbell, inviting your son to sit on his motorbike as he knows your son loves it.
Those moments when he is jumping and flapping and shrieking with excitement in a store checkout line, and the person in front of you is staring at him, and I have to control myself not to snap at them, reminding myself that I am not a mind reader.
Those gut wrenching, soul destroying moments when he is crying and staring at you, mouth open, desperately trying to get the words out to explain what is wrong, only to say, "talking open".
Those heart-exploding moments when he runs up to you and says "I love you" out of the blue.
Those endorphin-drowning moments of hearing him lying in the bath, giggling and you start to giggle too. And then you both giggle, insanely, at each other.
Those blissful moments when he sits you down and shuffles through a list of movies on Netflix on the remote, with surgeon precision, to show you what he found and watched today.
Those wordless moments when he flops down onto my lap and cuddles up against me, just because.
Those melting moments when he calls me, "Mommy, open".
Those proud moments when he opens the car door, gets in and hooks the seat belt over himself, locking it in - all by himself.
All I know is, like most parents, whether of neurotypical children or autistic children, we are just trying our best.
We will fail at times and we will succeed at times.
But most importantly, we will love and learn together.