When first time parents meticulously detail their labor and birth plans, I snicker inside. Childbirth rarely goes as planned, yet parents still think they can control their children’s destinies. Although frequently unspoken, parents have long lists of expectations for childhood, education, career and life. When your child is born different, you throw all your preconceived notions into the trash and start fresh and new. The road is empty of expected milestones and accomplishments. Each and every achievement is a victory. Instead of asking why your child isn’t making better grades in reading, you celebrate the child’s ability to read a single word. Tommy taught me that nothing should be taken for granted. Every step forward is an unexpected triumph. A gift. A gift that he gave not only to me, but to his younger siblings. For when I created a clean slate for Tommy, I created one for each of my children. We celebrate the unique gifts of every person in our family. We’re loud and messy and we’ll never be mistaken for the perfect families that advertising agencies use in photographs. We’re fine with that. People still lower their brow and whisper the word Autism when they talk to me. They feel sorry for me because my child has a diagnosis. That’s a waste of pity. We wouldn’t take away that diagnosis even if we could. It is part of who my child is and I love everything about my child. Feel sorry for us for being poor. Feel sorry for the fact that I will never see the world. Don’t feel sorry for the fact that we let our children live their own lives and cheer for their dreams instead of pushing ours onto them.