Fly, Joseph, Fly

By Brigitte Shipman | Feb 5 2021. | Autism, Parenting, Letting Go, Bittersweet, Leaving Nest

As I am writing this week's blog, I am watching my son Joseph prepare for a brand new beginning. He is leaving the nest to begin his independent life away from home.

I remember the day his father and I brought him home from the hospital as brand new parents. We were sleep-deprived, fearful, but also filled with the deepest love we had ever experienced. Our precious son was home. We had planned for months for his arrival. Now he was home.

Our home is filled with all our memories. Joseph has only lived in the house that his father and grandfather built. We really had not planned to stay in this house, but life has other plans for us that we can only dream of that we have no control over.

This house is the only home that my sons know. It is more than a structure; it has an energy that if you are completely silent begins to whisper memories of our lives.

My children leaving their home is a huge transition, but a welcoming one. As parents, we love, discipline, and teach our children so that they can leave and soar out of our nest.

When Joseph was diagnosed with autism, our world fell apart. I have lived with deep pain for years and fought for him without taking a breath. Now the day has come for Joseph to take all this love and years of therapies, education, and parenting and try it on his own.

I have spent a lot of my life in fear that this day would not ever come. Now it is here and I am filled with joy and deep sadness. I am smiling and crying all at the same time. I have heard of experiencing a bittersweet life moment and now I can honestly say, indeed it is just that bittersweet.

Would I want him to live here forever? No comes up very strong, but will I miss hearing him create music, poetry, and art upstairs in his room? Yes comes up very strong as well, but I know he is ready. I know because he is so excited and proud of himself for making the decision.

I have observed my son’s determination his whole life. I watched him attempt many life events with complete fear and conquer them. He is brave and courageous and I am filled with pride to be his mother. He conquered learning how to swim, ride a bike, speak in sentences, adjusting to an overstimulating world, making friends, and finally to find love.

It has taken him longer to achieve these things, but he has done it. I trust that he will fall once or twice, but don’t we all. What I do know is that he has the foundation and more importantly, the resilience to dust himself off and try again until he gets it. That is the quality that is most important to keep climbing even though it feels impossible.

I admire my son and he has taught me well. Although Joseph has said so eloquently that I am his mother guide, I in return know he is my guide too.

I have shared that Joseph is one of my greatest life teachers. He has taught me to be more resourceful, to know what it is to love someone unconditionally, to listen to my own intuition no matter what anyone else has to say. He has taught me to smile while I was using strategy to get him the education that he deserved. He has also taught me that deep pain can turn into love and joy if you give yourself permission to feel it. However, the greatest lesson that Joseph is teaching me is to let go.

I have shared this story before and I am sure you will hear me share again, because it has value. I asked my son a few years ago in one of our many existential conversations what he thought my greatest life lesson was on my life journey. He paused for only a moment and answered “Letting go.”

Joseph’s profound one-liners always make me stop whatever I am doing as it resonates throughout my body. I just smiled and told him that I completely agree with him.

My teacher Joseph, is giving me another opportunity to learn how to let go for all the right reasons. I am learning how to let go of being a hands-on mother. To let go of making sure his every move is the very best one.

I have been his mother guide for almost 29 years and now I will guide only as an advisor. This is what I have strived for all these years, but letting go of being his close guide and instead, becoming his advisor is without a doubt bittersweet.

I have given myself permission to be happy and sad in the same moment. When I watch him drive away to move 150 miles away from me, I will feel joy and sadness and that’s okay.

I will celebrate the man that he has become and also grieve not caring for him daily. I will embrace my new beginnings and cherish all the wonderful years that I was privileged and honored to learn from one of the great mentors of my life—my son Joseph.

I am lifting my glass with a toast and cheers to Joseph. Fly, Joseph, Fly High out of our nest!!! May you be well, May you be happy, and May you be free of suffering.


P.S. I want to invite you to my new online coaching program for moms of an autistic child who want to transform grief, fear, and overwhelm into joy, gratitude, and celebration. The enrollment closes soon. You can sign up here.

Autism Guide Brigitte Shipman Coach

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