For the past few years, on World Autism Awareness Day, I have shared a bit about our five year old son, Max, aka Supermax, and our life on the Autism Spectrum.
Today I want to do something a little different.
Today I want to write about my daughter, Mia.
Because siblings of Special Needs kids are their own kind of superhero and deserve to be celebrated.
Mia is nine years old. She loves art, animals, playing with her friends, going to the beach, and being with her family. She is silly and loves to laugh.
She is literal sunshine in my life, and always has been.
She is also the best big sister that anyone could ever ask for.
And I am so incredibly grateful.
Max just adores her.
Last year I told you how his favorite phrase is, Where’s Mommy?
Well, that’s still the case, but a close second is, Where’s Mia? Or, Bia, as he sometimes still calls her.
And I could cry. Every. Time.
Because it wasn’t always this way.
When Max started to gradually slide into Autism around 15-18 months of age, his relationship with all of us changed.
In some ways, it’s like we were invisible to him.
And just when he should have been showing a lot of interest in his big sister, and all of her stuff, it’s like he didn’t care at all.
Mia would call his name, repeatedly, to come and see what she was doing or to come and play. She showed him toys, offered to share with him, and always made a spot for him when she sat down to watch a show or a movie.
And Max almost never responded.
This. Killed. Me.
In those early years of our Autism journey, our lives changed dramatically.
We had therapy and appointments all the time.
We had tantrums and meltdowns that lasted for hours each and every day.
Our life became ruled by obsessions, rituals, and anxiety.
There was no sleep.
We could no longer just go to parties, activities, and unfamiliar places without knowing how Max would react or if he could handle it.
We separated a lot. Or took two cars. Or skipped things entirely because I just couldn’t stand to have my family in two different places for another weekend.
Vacations were out of the question.
We were suddenly faced with parenting two very different kids with very different needs and wants. Balancing that seemed damn near impossible.
I had constant feelings of guilt.
It was really, really hard.
Truthfully, it still is…but we are just better at it now.
And through all of this, there’s been Mia.
Like a ray of light.
Her empathy and love was unending.
She never complained.
She never spoke of the unfairness that was (and still is) her reality.
She was never resentful.
And she never, ever gave up on her brother.
Instead, she listened and watched Max’s therapists…and learned to get him to make eye contact with her.
Max, look at Bia. Look at my eyes.
She entered into his world. She instinctually showed interest in his obsessions – everything from balloons, to washing machines, to watching things fly in the wind – and this meant everything to him.
She found a way in.
And she accepted him. And loved him unconditionally.
Guys, there are adults in our life who don’t know how to do this. Or don’t care to try.
So I have no idea how we got so lucky.
But I know one thing.
Special Needs siblings like Mia are going to change the world.
Today, Mia is a huge part of Max’s life. In fact, he has asked for her twice in the last hour since she left for school. He knows where she is, but it’s his way of saying he misses her.
He puts things aside during the day to show her when he is home and she isn’t.
He runs to her when she gets off the bus. They hug.
They sleep in the same room at night.
And none of this is lost on me. The tears are flowing right now, because there was a time that I didn’t know if this would ever happen.
If he would ever acknowledge his beautiful sister.
If he would know how much she loved him.
If he would love her back.
This is more than I could have wished for.
And even in the rare occasion when they fight…I relish in the “normalcy” of it.
There is so much beauty in this life.
Mia, when you are old enough to read through your momma’s blog and all of her posts, I hope you read this one. And I hope you know that you are so loved. And that you mean so much to our family. And that we are so grateful and proud to call you our daughter. ❤️
Friends, I once again thank you for allowing me to interrupt this space and share what’s in my heart. You all have been nothing but supportive over the years and I am so grateful.
April is Autism Awareness month, so feel free to share. To read more of our story, check out these posts from other years:
Our Autism Story – 2018 Update
Our Autism Story – 2020 Update
Much love to you, friends.
*Photo credit for the tree farm pictures goes to Lindsay McGoldrick Photography
Umm Faiz says
This is 3 am in Jakarta, Indonesia right now and my tears are flowing when reading this article that I happen to visit after reading this post https://www.nbcnews.com/know-your-value/feature/rise-stay-home-working-mom-ncna987371. Please send my regards and hugs to Mia and Max. I believe that your decision to become stay home working mom is so rewarding. Stay inspiring, Nancylynn.
Thank you so much…it means a lot that you took the time to read our story and send me a note. Much love to you from across the world!
Jaclyn Masi says
Such a beautiful tribute. You have one special little lady and I’m sure she is the person she is because of your influence.
Thank you, Jaclyn. That means a lot. ❤️
Maria Bender says
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story! I also hope Mia reads this one day to not only know that she is loved and an amazing individual, but that she also has an amazing mother! You truly are an inspiration!
Thank you, Maria…that means so much. <3
You struck a heart string this morning. While my son does not have Autism, he does have some health issues that more often than not takes the front row. My daughters are 9 and 11 and deserve to be celebrated. It amazes me how resilient they are! Thanks for sharing your story!!
Yes! Superhero sisters! Lots of love to your family, Sarah! ❤️
I have my own ray of sunshine, her name also being Mia, only she is the 2nd in line and my oldest, Averi, was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 4. Mia was a “surprise” and she was born when the downslide of Averi’s diagnosis was coming to the front. She was the best baby, she was so sweet to her older sister, showing her lots of love even in the heated moments of screaming and meltdown over a book being out of place. While we were walking through all the hard things with Averi, Mia was behind us giving us a glimpse of “normalcy.”
Fast forward many years later, ABA therapy is long since done. Averi will be 11 this year. I’ll never forget when she came to me (we’ve never mentioned the word autism to her) and she said “mom, I learned about autism today at school and I think I have that.” This was very empowering for her to realize this. We’ve all learned and adjusted and are doing well. Mia is my free spirit, love and hugs to all, cries when I cry, loves passionately and fiercely. While Averi will never be like that, she has her own strengths and her and Mia have a love for each other that I would’ve never imagined could ever be there.
I am blessed to have Averi, but I am just as blessed to have my Mia. Both hold two separate places in my heart. I love them each for who they are.
Your story brought tears to my eyes, Jessica…thank you for sharing and lots of love to you, your sweet Averi and your precious Mia!
This is beautiful!
Thank you 💕
I ❤️ You and Mia and Max !!! This post was everything and the pictures are SO good too!!! xoxox
We love you, too. ❤️
Have you heard of the Bus Stop Club?
I have not! Please share!
What a beautiful tribute to your daughter!
Thank you 💕
It sounds like you have an amazing daughter. I love that you’ve chosen to celebrate how special she is. I’m sure she gets some of those qualities from her mom.
Thank you, Leslie…this means a lot. ❤️