A Mom’s Love: The Day He Let Go

Have you ever smelled your child? I mean really, really smelled your child? Not the, “What is that coming from the other room…. who ate tuna…with bananas…and…is that mango?!” aroma, but their smell.

A Mom's Love: The Day He Let Go https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/moms-love-day-let-go/

I’m referring to the moment when you bury your nose deep into their hair, take a deep breath, and hold your child so tight you never want that lungful to leave your chest.

Yup, that there is the smell I’m talking about. The breath of true love.

When my son Rocco started preschool he had just turned three years old. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), he is considered low-functioning, non-verbal, and intellectually disabled.

So how on earth was my little boy going to attend a classroom with other students, five days a week, for six and a half hours? He could hardly walk into a different room at home without separation anxiety.  Rocco needed me. How could he handle this?  Who was going to help him blow his nose? Will they know if he’s thirsty? Can he really do it? (Not me, I’m totally cool with him going! Completely chill. Please! How great that he is going to leave me and masnfasnvioeivnaskdfnasdf…Sorry, I got something in my eye and water got all over the keyboard..it was NOT TEARS and I am NOT CRYING!) Like I was saying…Rocco was going to have a really hard time!


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The first day of school arrived. The sun was shining, students were gathering, and my stomach was in knots. I unclipped my dude, picked him up, walked to his aide, and just kept whispering how strong he was…how proud he made me while I took the deepest breaths I could of him. I felt his Kung Foo grip on my neck tighten and clumps of hair being ripped out (good thing I didn’t have my extensions in because girlfriend!!) as I handed him over. I saw the tears start to stream down his face and kept mine in…at least until I got home, and by home I mean the parking lot.

We made it through the day and he did really well! Weeks went by and he began to enjoy the routine. I never should have underestimated how brave he was. Maybe it was me. I was the weak one.

I started to look forward to the morning drop-off. Rocco had excitement in his eyes, laughter running around the school yard, would bring me towards the door, and then it happened. The aide walked out and he let go. I felt his little fingers disappear from my hand. He went right over, grabbed her hand, and brought her into the school. He didn’t need me.

And that was it. The day my son let go. Just as he crossed through the archway of the school his little (let’s face it – large as a melon) head turned back and I swear he smiled…and I knew…it would all be okay. I could smell it.

Some days I really wonder…which one of us is learning lessons.

Thank you, Rocco.  You are my greatest teacher.

This article was featured in Issue 93 – ASD Advice for Today and Tomorrow

Valerie Cullari

Valerie Cullari enjoys writing about her family’s journey along the spectrum and all the adventures it brings. With each story, she hopes it brings a certain “relatable-ness” to other families going through the same thing as well as a touch of humor. As an active member in the autism community, she devotes her time to spreading awareness, education, and acceptance. Besides her husband and three-year-old warrior, Rocco, she has her two-year-old spitfire, Lily Rae. The children share laughs, get into trouble, and love eating pancakes together. If they aren’t singing and dancing to a Disney movie, you can find them playing tag or building towers. It’s not always butterflies and rainbows, but what would life be without some rain and worms. Have you ever played Mario Kart? Familiar with the level “Rainbow Road”? It’s hard; it’s tricky, it’s colorful and bright…after every lap…what an achievement! Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of autism. “It’s simply finding a miracle in the little, everyday things or perhaps it’s the little miracle that has found us.” Facebook; Twitter; and Instagram

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