A Small Thing

Biggest's shoes on the floor - an actual picture of the first time he took them off on his own.

It’s a small thing. So small.

We had just returned from the shops and you were bundled up warm in your winter coat. I helped you take it off and off you skipped, into the living room. I continued to unpack the shopping and it was a few minutes before I followed you.

And there they were, on the floor. Your shoes.

You had never taken them off before – not on your own.ย It was a small thing to most, so small. Most children your age managed it a few years ago. Your baby sister has already learned to take hers off. At the grand old age of three years and nearly five months, you are the last of your classmates to achieve it.

Last week, we visited the preschool room of your nursery, where you are overdue to move up. The other children move when they are three but you have needed, still need, longer. We went to observe, to see where you would need support. They explained how the children take off their own shoes, hang up their own coats, collect their own plates and glasses and serve their own food, pour their own drinks.

And I crumbled, for a little while. I struggled to pay attention, listen to your new key-person. My voice cracked as I tried to ask questions, be the parentย I was expected to be. I turned away, pretending to scrutinise the dress-up box, so that she would not see the tears in my eyes.

I crumbled because I knew that list of things, rattled off so matter-of-factly, was a list of mountains for you to climb. A list of things you would try – try so hard to do- but that most, most you would fail to do the first, second, fiftieth time you tried to do them. I could see you, trying to hang your coat, trying to pour your drink. I could see your coat fall, your squash spill. It made me so, so sad, for a little while.

We walked down through the orchards, to the play park on the farm: a beautiful place to grow, to learn. The pre-schoolers traipsed slowly but happily towards their destination, a rainbow of bright waterproofs and childish laughter. The uneven ground made them slip and giggle but they were never dismayed.

Biggest playing at the park

At the playpark they were a whirlwind of activity, chasing each other, climbing, balancing, sliding, holding hands, singing. I could see how overwhelming the journey, the colours, the noise, the interaction will be for you. In the winter sunshine, with the joy of youth bustling all around me, I was scared and sad for you.

I felt overcome with bitterness that those things – so easy for so many of your classmates – would be so hard for you. The unfairness of it prickled at me long into the evening. At every point in your day, you will be faced with something difficult.

My first instinct was that I needed to protect you from the pain of all that disappointment, shield you from the realisation that you are different. But it must come. You will have no choice but to overcome, or adapt, to the challenges the world presents to you. There are many things in this life that will be so hard for you, so easy for others. I know, in the long run, you will be better because of it.

You will be stronger than silly, crumbling mummy who nearly cried in the pre-school room. Stronger than anyone who has things come easily to them. Stronger even than I can imagine, I hope.

You will not be alone. I cannot shield you, but I can fight for you. Fight for the right support, fight for the opportunities to be given, fight for the right challenges to be set before you. And this is the right challenge to set.

There will be tears when you start the pre-school room. You will be scared and upset in an unfamiliar place, a different routine. You will be so frustrated that you cannot pour your drink, so angry that you tried so many times to get your coat on your peg. I will not always be there to help you, to comfort you, when those setbacks come. Sometimes people will not understand why some things are so hard, why they trigger such fury. But one day you will pour your own drink. One day you will get your coat on that peg.

And today, my beautiful, brilliant boy, you took off your shoes.

It is a symbol for how you keep trying. It is a symbol for every struggle you face, every difficult thing you learn to do. It is a sign of hope, a testament to your character. It shows that you can, and will climb those mountains, however long it takes, however many times you fail.

And it reminds me that I am so, so proud of you, every day, every hour, every second.


To read more about our autism journey, you might like The Things I Know


A Small Thing


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63 thoughts on “A Small Thing

  1. What a beautiful post to write. I can’t really say much more than that, it’s not something I personally have experienced but I think as parents we will always fight for our children so that they have the challenges, opportunities and support that are exactly right for their needs.

      1. My is nearly 7 and today he read a book to me and even wore socks for the whole day. I was so happy because he doesn’t like socks because he can’t put them on himself. Everyday my son surprises me with what he can do.

  2. The journey truly begins once your child enters the education system.Its something so normal like starting nursery,a right of passage most parents don’t give a second thought that can give you a glimpse into the future.I didn’t know just how different my son was.I understood he had been diagnosed with autism but I didn’t truly understand what the long term implications were until I was reminded daily that he was nothing like his peers and never would be.My son is 12 now and we still celebrate the small things because they are big for us.I still feel sad,sometimes out of the blue. Standing in Boots the chemist last week I spotted my friends lad who is 8 months younger than my son ,there with his school pals.It was like being punched in the face.I cried all the way home.Im not sure our children become strong..they simply know no different.However we become tiger mothers,that I know with certainty.

    1. Thank you for commenting. It can be really difficult when we see things other children do but as long as we do our best to support and aid our childrenโ€™s happiness, that’s all we can do. xx

  3. a really beautiful post. with your support your little boy will achieve everything you want for him and more. was he happy about being able to take his own shoes off?
    celebrate the little things as they happen. it doesn’t matter how long it takes him, he’ll get there in his own time. x

  4. what a beautiful post. I love reading posts like this where other parents open up about the emotions. when other mums take time to sit down and write down those feelings they feel. and sometimes its especially such small little things that make us pause and think and appreciate those little people in our lives. thank you for sharing.

  5. I agree this is a beautifully written post. It must be incredibly hard for you knowing he will struggle in ways that others won’t. I would say I can imagine what that would be like… but I’m pretty sure that would be impossible to really know until you’ve lived a day in your shoes. Just to say that you seem like a really loving Mama and show a great deal of strength xx

  6. Such a beautiful post, I was reading with a lump in my throat. It’s amazing how strong our babies are, and how they keep going no matter how many times they get knocked down – I think they teach us as much as we do them! x #anythinggoes

  7. Such a beautifully written post and one that I can identify with entirely. This week my little boy wrote “Mum”, unprompted, without asking for help. I can’t explain what a huge huge step that was for him. He is struggling with literacy and it made me cry! Indeed, they will all climb mountains, ASD is not the end of the world I have discovered and I remain hopeful for my son’s future despite knowing that there is a tough road ahead.

  8. Such a beautiful post. Makes me remember shedding happy tears when my son said “house”. Seems so simple, so easy. Except for him it wasn’t, he had speech delay and only I could understand him.

    You’re right, there will be challenges but with the right support and with you fighting his corner he will adapt and overcome them I’m sure.

    Keep celebrating the little things, it’s the little things in life which are really the big ones.

  9. Oh this post! How beautifully touching. It is ridiculous how protective you feel over them, how every slight at the school gate is a knife to your heart, every tiny triumph makes you soar with joy and when you’re faced with extra difficulty as you are, I imagine these highs and lows are magnified to enormous proportions. I’m so so glad that he made this milestone. Thanks for linking up such a lovely post to the #bigpinklink

  10. I just had to comment because I identified so much with this. Every step seems like a mountain, some days more than others. My son is 4, has speech delay and asd – I worry for him, especially when the train of comparison truly starts, the endless form filling and explanations. School for us in September. But. Then come the triumphs, the odd word and omg, the amazing love he gives out. I wouldn’t change him, I heard someone say something about changing the world for them. And that’s what you’re doing by sharing your experience here, building awareness and making stronger community. I hope your son finds what mine did when changing to that room. Children who rally for him and care and help. Then adults who support him and provide love when you’re not there. That change in room can really help. Keep sharing!

  11. This is so beautiful to read & I recognise so many emotions I’ve had with my boys growing up. It’s sad that we can’t always be there every step of the way & the hardest part is letting go. It does get easier but I know you’re struggle is a limited harder than most. A little thing to some but a huge thing for you & your son. X

  12. It brought a tear to my eye to witness how much you love your little one, he will blossom into a butterfly and show the world what he is made of and he will be there to wipe away your tears. Keep strong hun he is a testament to your fantastic parenting skills x

  13. Aw what a beautiful post! They grow up so fast. My youngest will be 16 soon! I just got a letter from the government saying he will soon have a NI number. Enjoy these small moments – they pass quickly!

  14. lovely post, I could have written it myself. Our youngest has just turned 3 and should be moving up to the preschool room but is going to stay where he is now until September, which is a relief as we know the transition will be hard and he will need 1:1 the majority of the time even to access education as they do it his age through play.

  15. Lovely post. I haven’t experienced this first hand, but your son is lucky that his mum is so supportive of him and notices the little triumphs and shares with others.

  16. Thank you for this. It is so spot on. My son is nearly 8 and really has astounded us with his achievements, some large, some small. And whilst we laugh and cry in equal measure, through the frustrations and highlights, we now know that there are others out there like us and it is a massive support. Even if we will never know each other, the feeling that you (and other brilliant bloggers) understand what life is like is such a relief. Thanks x

  17. Beautifully written and such a touching post, the warmth of your love shines through your writing always. I am here to tell you he will keep making progress, he will amaze you and you will be strong, stronger than you ever know. Those shoes are a massive symbol of hope just as you said. We all arrive at where we need to be in the end. Big hug x

  18. This is a heartrending read and captures so well much of the thoughts. I experience every day. We are further along the road and the details of the challenges are different, but the thoughts and emotions are the same. Thanks, from one autism mum to another.

  19. This is such a lovely and beautifully written post, and taking shoes off is a fab achievement! #smallstepsamazingachievements

  20. All children are unique and have so much to offer. As a parent of a child with specific learning difficulties I can relate to your feelings, of knowing that there will be mountains to climb, but what a feeling it is when they achieve it. As a person who works with children with profound and complex difficulties In an education setting and also on a personal assistant basis I can honestly say that sharing their achievements – taking their shoes off, saying hello, hanging up their coat, going into a shop with you for the first time – is so rewarding and I wouldn’t want to do any other job. The tears of joy and laughter from the pleasure brought by our children outweigh those of the sadness and frustration that we can experience. Your son has got the most important thing he needs in his life…your love and support.

  21. Beautifully written post. It’s never easy when your child is different. My son, who’s 6, has autism and struggles with certain things other children find a breeze. But then he excels at things that others may find difficult. He’s brilliant at maths, his reading is amazing and he knows technology and computers like the back of his hand. He’s my amazing boy and I’m sure your son is just as amazing too ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. This brought a tear to my eye, your love for your little boy shines through this and makes it a truly beautiful post. I can not understand the things you have to go through on a daily basis but I can understand the desire to want the best for your child. I am sure you will continue to fight for him and he will be better off because of it.

  23. This is such a beautiful post hun! I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of when welling up in the pre-school room. Things are hard sometimes. I love that you have such faith in your boy, and that he makes you proud. A really beautiful post. xxx

    1. Thank you very much for such kind words. I think it made his key-person a bit uncomfortable! It is tough but he is brilliant and gets me through it with his charm ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. I feel for you and the frustrations, fears and sadness you feel at times. In work and in my family I have seen these emotions emerge I we watch my family and the families of those I support deal with the hurdles created by autism. But you are so right, these wonderful individuals are strong, so very strong and with the love and support of their families they do overcome their hurdles.
    Thanks for sharing with us, Tracey xx #abitofeverything

  25. Wow, the tears stated falling for me just reading that so I have no idea how you held it together in that room. I know your son needs to learn these things, and he will, but until then I hope he gets given the support he needs. I remember having these feelings. I laughed when I was told how lunch would work at a mainstream school for my son. Thankfully I got him the support he needs and now my little boy will happily clear away his plate but at three he could just about use a spoon with help. Sending hugs #SSAmazingAchievements

    1. Thank you. We are currently in the process of trying to get him one to one support but it’s not straightforward! Hopefully we’ll be able to sort it soon and he can move up full time. I am very conscious of how close school is… x

  26. Oh gosh, those feelings are never far away, however old our children get.
    D is 12 in May and I remember feeling so helpless so her, knowing that she would find mainstream nursery so challenging. Wanting to protect her but knowing that she needed to try things out, which her peers would be doing automatically.
    She didn’t get on in mainstream but has absolutely flourished in an SN school environment.
    That lioness feeling never goes for me, it occasionally roars but sometimes it purrs, when she achieved something I never expected her to.
    Your son has made you proud with his shoes, what would seem little to others is major to us, well done him!
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

  27. Sometimes as a mother I feel like all I do is worry. Worry about my children. How other children will treat them, how they will treat others. I worry about what the world is going to be like as they grow older. I worry about their health, my health, and that my heart aches for those who have lost a battle with theirs. I think it’s just a natural instinct as mothers to worry. Loved reading this…so loving and honest. I am visiting from #abitofeverything.

  28. Such a gorgeous post as always lovely! It is amazing how proud we can be of such tiny milestones isn’t it? I remember the first time Hayden tried to put his shoes on (he still cant do it) I just watched in awe of his determination. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely, hope you join me again this week! I also can’t wait to see your new header on Monday ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  29. Pingback: Spectrum Sunday #14 - Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

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