That smile. He can manage seven popsicles out of us in one sitting, just with that smile. When he wakes in the middle of the night and crawls into bed with us, I can feel him clinging to me, whispering, "Hi mom" into my ear, and I wait until his breathing slows and he drifts off to sleep, so we can quietly carry him back to his own bed. With a frustrated cry he flings his tablet and buries his face into his hands, because he can't spell, or can't trace the letters perfectly. I insist he play a game that isn't so advanced, but he refuses stubbornly, and retreats back to the game with tears in his eyes. When someone cries, you can see his mind racing, trying to figure out how to help them. Once when I was crying, he didn't say a word, he just put his arms around me, and when I was done, he said, "I love you, mom". I can imagine his four year old mind, not able to communicate like he wants, his words sometimes unrecognizable. His small body not quite strong enough, sometimes falling instead of running. I see his fear of heights and doctors. I can imagine his heart, so full of love for mankind and anyone that breathes, and yet others don't understand. They see a little boy who hugs too much. But I see a man in the making. A great one. A man who respects his father and comforts his mother. A man who drives hours in the middle of the night, to pick up a crying sister who needs her brother's love. I see this all, when I look into Rowen's eyes. I will help him. I will help erase that doubt that I see in his eyes, placed there by little disabilities in him that hold him back. But these disabilities can't extinguish his spirit, his fire. Autism is just a word. Disorder is, too. Rowen defines Rowen, and the love he has for the world around him is so bright and so strong. Nothing can break him.
Someday his tears of frustration and pain will be replaced by pride and courage. He may not feel understood, but I understand him. And I will keep helping him up until he can do this all on his own. Until then, our hands will be there for him to grasp when that hike may seem too treacherous and scary, his father's arms open, ready to carry him up when his legs fail him.
And someday, when this four year old boy isn't little anymore, and his once clumsy body stands strong, he will bravely exclaim once again, "I did it!" And he will look up at us with that smile.
And it will all be worth it.