While at my parents’ this past weekend, we watched a bunch of movies. They are huge fans of the Hallmark channel, and my mom loves romantic comedies. She’d received Joyful Noise for her birthday or Christmas but have never watched it. Gracie and I are all for movies with a love story and music, so we happily agreed to watching. I had no clue what I was getting into.
The movie was good. We laughed. We sang along. And then I realized the son in the movie was autistic. He asks his mom why she doesn’t hate God for making him that way. I couldn’t help it. I started crying. I don’t hate God for making Ethan the way he is, but I certainly do frequently wonder what He’s up to.
The hardest part of the movie to take was when the son was talking to a friend about how hard it was for him as a teenager…not knowing if someone wanted him to stop talking, not understanding the subtleties, not getting the jokes. It put me in a dark place, hearing that. I don’t know if Ethan knows his “diagnosis”. He knows he goes to therapy, sees the social worker, and has sessions with the speech therapist at school, and that not every other kid does. I realized I’ve never asked him if he knows, what he thinks. I’ve never asked him if it’s hard for him. But then, he is only eight. What moved me to tears was the thought this is not going to get easier. He’s come very far with his therapy, and we are nowhere near the very dark place we were in 18 months ago. But he will grow and change. Differences will become more noticeable to peers. I pray it will not get harder, but how long until he’s asking me why I’m not mad at God for making him this way?
I cried again towards the end of the movie when the boy had found the courage to do something he was afraid of. And the smile, the pure joy on his face….I knew exactly how his mother felt in that moment. He did something he thought, he knew, he could not do. I cried knowing what that means to a child with autism, because I’ve seen a few of those moments with Ethan. I treasure those moments.
I am beginning to think movies like this one need to come with a warning label for parents of kids like Ethan. I say that facetiously of course. While it made me cry from sadness, it also made me cry with joy. I cannot insulate myself. That’s not fair to me nor to Ethan. We will walk this path, no matter what it brings. But we will walk it together. It’s not all dark and fear. There are moments so incredibly bright, and they make the darkness more bearable.