In the midst of special needs, and speaking for us specifically, autism, there are many events that you lose that you thought you’d know. This week we were reminded, yet again, of just that. Beckett finished his busy day of school and therapy, and settled into his evening routine in his safe space, at home. We’re big on veggie straws around here, so he grabbed his “talker” and requested them by pressing the “chips” button. Now as parents often do (shocking, I know), my hands were full. washing dishes, and cleaning counters, etc and my response to his request wasn’t instant. Mom life. But this child of mine looked up at me, irritated in true 5-year-old fashion, and I noticed a larger gap between two teeth. I pulled in a gasp, and reached for his little chin. Yep. Sure enough, my littlest love lost his first tooth. No idea when or even where. All I know is sometime that same day it popped right out.

Some may be thinking, “It’s a tooth. We all lose them.” But my heart aches a bit. It’s not just about the tooth. It’s about the loss of the adventure. The celebration. The enjoyment. Autism ultimately robbed us of the experience of this “first.” Of so many. Whether it would be a big deal to my child or not, it is to me. We don’t know where his tooth went. If it’s laying around in the car, or here at home, or even school. We don’t know if he swallowed it. Or if he even noticed it was loose, or now missing. Which then erases the opportunity to really celebrate with the “tooth fairy.” 

For us now, there’s no cute letters to be written. Or “glitter trails.” Or money exchange. Because our son doesn’t have a care in the world for what “it means.” What it represents. He has no want or need for currency. The concept is too abstract right now. And that in itself, I suppose, is a small blessing in disguise. Because his wants are simple these days. Joy is sprung from the “little things.” 

Something as simple as plastic spoons are the current fascination. And it’s nothing short of adorable. But the majority of the sadness, for me, comes from my boy not even noticing the change. He doesn’t know just how big he’s getting. How right before our eyes, he’s growing up, at the speed of light. And though it makes my heart sing, with each passing milestone, I can’t help but mourn. I mourn the loss of the “norms” we thought we would celebrate. Like the over-the-top excitement surrounding trick-or-treating, or opening holiday gifts, or the “Tooth Fairy” retrieving baby teeth.

But as time passes, I can’t help but be grateful for my boy’s demeanor. His heart. His joy for life. No matter what day it is on the calendar, or what change comes about for him, he’s my happy boy. And I think that’s going to be more than enough. That makes for a truly beautiful life.

This post originally appeared on To Infinity & Beyond Words.