This article, entitled "Parenthood’s Surprising Blessings," comes from Kathy Bedford, MomsEveryday blogger from Northwest Florida.
My heart leaped into my throat when the master of ceremonies announced it:
“Austin Bedford would like to give a speech.”
My husband and I stared at each other, eyebrows raised in surprise. We were sitting in the high school auditorium during the Awards Ceremony of the International Thespian Society, of which Austin was a member.
Austin hadn’t told us he was giving a speech. In fact, he hardly told us we were invited to attend the ceremony! There’s such a difference between boys and girls. Girls seem to tell their parents important details all the time and actually hand deliver invitations and school announcements to their parents with the key details of dates and times of said events. Apparently neither of our boys inherited those genes.
We watched Austin descend down the aisle and walk up the stairs onto the stage. No telling what he was going to say. No telling if he would freeze, make a fool of himself, or say something embarrassing that would make his parents cringe. Austin’s heart is made of pure gold. He is kind natured, always wanting everyone to get along. It broke our hearts seeing him struggle throughout his elementary and middle school years on so many levels because he was deemed a square peg, and being told on several fronts that his success depended on him fitting into a round hole.
“Get out your phone camera and record this,” I whispered to my husband. His battery was on 12% power and he was on call for his business, but we decided to try and get Austin’s “surprise speech” on film. And then came the blessing:
“Hi,” Austin began. He spoke the word in the way only he could, and it produced a friendly ripple of laughter throughout the audience of his peers.
“Uh, most of you don’t know this, but I was, uh, born with Aspbergers…Autism” he started, his voice lifting at the end of his sentence. “What that means is, I can’t always talk very good.” The audience fell silent. “All I ever wanted to do in Middle School up to my Junior year in high school was fit in. So I thought, I’ll try everything! I tried football, well, that didn’t work.” A friendly chuckle rippled through the audience.
Austin continued. “Then one day an arch angel by the name of Summer Eubanks (take a bow, Summer) appeared!” The audience broke into applause. Summer was a familiar face in high school, one of Austin’s closest friends and the happiest person I know.
“So Summer came up to me in the cafeteria and said, ‘Hey Austin, why don’t you join Theater?’”
“My response was ah ha ha, ha ha ha, Good one!”. Austin’s piers laughed along with him. “But then, I thought, well why not give it a try? I mean, YOLO right? (YOLO is a slang term for You Only Live Once) And, and…everybody was SO NICE! I LOVED IT! And that’s where I am now,” he continued.
The audience hoots and cheers were encouraging. He continued with his stand up comedy “gift” and then said…
“I feel like this is the part of my speech where I should say, Stay in Drugs and Don’t Do School Kids”. The crowd roared to life. “Uh, don’t do either of those things,” Austin said over the laughter. “That’s terrible advice! So, that’s about all, Peace out and Have Nice Day.” The End.
His joining this Theater group had been the beginning of a joy-filled journey for him. He’d found his niche having moved here from clear across the country (Nevada) in the middle of his Sophomore year. Not an easy feat for any teenager to do.
Later that week Tim, Austin’s brother and I sat on the bleachers watching Austin across the stage, receive his high school graduation. It was a proud parent moment to be sure, yet truth be told, witnessing him graduate was simply icing on the cake. Our crowning parental moment happened that Saturday evening watching our son giving the speech of his life. All the pain, struggles, fears and heartbreaks we went through as a family over the course of 18 years melted away as we sat listening to his 5-minute speech. Like the joy of holding your child after having experienced the pains of childbirth, the hard labor is forgotten because nothing compares to ‘that moment’. It’s a joy that simply can’t be manufactured.
That’s the gift of parenthood.