I have just returned from my first overnight away from all three kids.
That, in itself, was huge for me, considering my youngest is about to turn three. I have been away a few times before, but always had at least one kid with me, so this "being alone" stuff was new to me.
But the really huge part of it all was that I was with a group of other autism moms who understood how monumental this was. They knew this wasn't an easy escape for me. I spent a lot of time waivering during the week : I can go. I can't go. I can't leave them. I have to leave them. I have to leave them but I can't leave them.
And each time the response was: You must come. But if you can't, we understand.
I've written a lot about the comfort level of being with other people who "get it" - the people who understand the tremendous highs and lows of this special needs parenting rollercoaster. And I've written a lot about how important this village is to me in helping me get out of bed in the morning and face the day.
But what I realized this weekend is that most important thing these women give me is the ability to be myself. There's no need for the pretenses of "yup, yup, everything's fine" when I'm with these friends because they know that everything isn't always fine. I can just get it out there and let it hang. No judgment, no condemnation. Because it's followed up with a "when that happened to me" and a "I know, that is so hard".
These are women who are changing their corner of the world every day. Some on the public stage, some more privately. They do things that make the world a better place just by opening their mouths and speaking their minds. Whether it's being a part of their town's special education advisory council or talking to their kid's class about autism or running a marathon, they are all incredible advocates for their children and the children in our community.
They have taught me that crying is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and conviction. They taught me that while laughing may not the the appropriate response, sometimes it's the only response.
And most importantly, if I stay true to who I am as a person, I too can change my little corner of the world.
When I arrived at my friend's house, I was greeted with a smile, a margarita, and a "how are you doing?"
I'm home now and looking ahead to a most difficult week of meetings and milestones.
Tonight, I am raising a glass to my these friends. Thanks to you, I really will be just fine.
"I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all" - Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls
(and a big thank you to my husband and mom who stayed home with the kids so I could go. Behind every mom who gets a break is a person who loves them enough to give them one)
Alysia Butler is a stay at home mom to three boys, two who are now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. When she's not wondering how she got so lucky, she writes about her kids and other things at Try Defying Gravity and on twitter at @trydefyinggrav.