Earlier this week, Nixon woke up around 5:00 a.m. crying. As I picked him up out of his bed, his long legs were freezing. The temperature in Phoenix had dropped, and he loves to sleep with just an overnight pull-up. He has four blankets on his bed but usually ends up sleeping on top of them.

I carried him into our room, and he snuggled under the covers. This has happened a handful of times since he was a baby. Once he is awake, he does not go back to sleep. But this morning, he snuggled in, put his head in my arms, and went back to sleep.

I felt lucky for this moment. I had hoped many times in the past that Nixon would fall back asleep, and I could get 45 extra minutes of rest. This morning I listened to him sleep, our dog Marty snuggled up next to him, and his wild brown hair hung in his face.

I did not go back to sleep. I took in the moment, soaked it in.

I have learned to appreciate, in our unique parenting journey, to soak in the rare and swift moments when things feel the way I imagined parenting would.

Nixon has never woken me up by running and jumping on our bed, yelling, “Mom”. He has never called me over and over from the other room. After a day of school, he hasn’t run to my arms to tell me about a new friend he made or a completed project.

At least not yet. I had imagined these moments when I thought about mothering.

In the night, Nixon has called for me, requesting me to hold him for a couple of minutes longer. He has given me a half-grin when I asked him how his school day was. He has requested a daily trip for a simple ice cream cone on his ride home from his therapy program over and over.

He has surprised me with his soul filled with adventure. Not afraid to swim in cold creek water, run up a hiking trail with the rocks falling below him, and walk into the woods like a lead character in a children’s book.

He loves his brown hair falling in his face as he submerges his face underwater. I worry that it blocks his vision and tuck it behind his ears, which he protests by swiftly removing it.

He often calls for his sister when we leave the house, knowing she is left behind. Something that shocked me the first time he did it. Recognizing that she wouldn’t be by his side as he went off to his program.

He loves pizza, dinosaurs, sand flowing through his hands, baths, and water.

I have learned that it can feel how I imagined parenting to be, even if the circumstances of what it looks like are different.

I realize that no parent knows who their children are going to be before they are born. And no parent knows what kind of parenting they are going to need to do before they have children.

My heart sings when he asks for something over and over again because it took him four years to learn how to request something verbally. My heart runs to him when he calls me in the night because I know he needs his Mom to comfort him. My heart is filled with pride when I see a tiny half grin when I ask him about his day. Even if he does not yet know how to answer my question, he knows I will continue to ask until he is ready.

I will soak up each moment because it does feel the way I imagined it would.

Our book is not written. I am surprised at how we are writing our story each day. I am happy to have these moments, and that autism has made me open my eyes to feel each one carefully. Because they are our moments, maybe he won’t remember that morning, but I know I will.