My nephew turned 10 yesterday. I can’t believe that he is already in double digits. I can still remember the first time I met him when he was only a few days old. He was so little and helpless. I feel the same protectiveness towards him today that I felt then. He is one of the people in my life that gives me unconditional love. His hugs are special. He really hugs like he means it. They’re not forced. You can feel the love radiate through him when he hugs you and when he looks at you.
It’s especially apparent when I see him interact with his beautiful mother. She is clearly his everything. The kid loves his dad but his mom, well it’s a special kind of love he saves only for her.
You see my nephew has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder. It’s a developmental disability that can cause major social, communication and behavioral challenges. You wouldn’t really know it if you looked at Zayn. In fact it almost hurts to look at him because he is so beautiful. He is a strikingly handsome, sweet boy filled with laughter and a certain passion for Spiderman. It’s when you get really close to him and you’re having a conversation with him that you realize that he is a bit aloof. That’s when his mother really feels pain. It hurts her to see that others notice he is different.
There was a time when Zayn wouldn’t look at you when you spoke to him. He certainly wouldn’t converse with you but today he does. I’ve seen this little boy transform so drastically. He now responds to questions and looks at you when you speak to him. I see him slowly coming out of the dark. On the other side of that darkness is his mother, coaxing him to step out into the world.
I’ve had many tearful conversations with my cousin. I’ve felt her heartache and anguish but I’ve also witnessed her strength. They say God gives special children to special people. It must be true. This woman has gone through hell and back within her own childhood. When she was only a few years old she witnessed her father being taken away by the Russians in Afghanistan. He was never seen again and presumed dead. I often think about how much that has haunted her and her brother. That’s just the beginning of her struggles in life. Fast forward to her getting married and having children of her own. No one can really prepare for a special needs child. My cousin is no exception.
Once Zayn was diagnosed she had to mourn the son she thought she had. My cousin decided that she would fight for the son she had. She researched and tried everything from music therapy, to speech…..the list goes on. She spent hours at home repeating what the therapists and psychologist had done with Zayn. She worked so hard that she lost herself in him. The world would see her beautiful smile but only a few of us knew what really went on inside her heart. Now that she is seeing a difference in her boy she is finally able to get out and find herself again.
I started writing this in honor of my beautiful nephew who gives me special hugs. In the end, it’s his mother that I honor and look up to. That’s what parenting is all about. Giving of yourself, loving to the end. Never giving up.
I can see Zayn becoming an actor, a computer scientist. I can see him doing anything he wants in life because he has a mother who helps him soar.
Zayn is different. He is beautiful, kind and he knows who is helping mold him into the wonderful, successful man he will become one day. So he will give special hugs to her always.
I love you Zayn. Happy Birthday to my one of a kind nephew!xoxo