When we roll into this new year, it was time to look back at our choices over the last year and reevaluate our goals for change in the new year.

There is no doubt that 2020 will forever be one of the years we all can reflect on.

In 2020 we became special needs parents and discovered both our children carried the medical diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder.

When children are diagnosed, we often hear that the words in no way change who they are. The words on the paper provided a road to services and support they need. The words are only one small part of who they are.

After an autism diagnosis, we fight an inner battle of emotions and dive into learning as much as possible. It can feel overwhelming, and the fear of what the future will hold can suffocate you from the now.

Autism has daily fresh starts. We often watch skills get lost while others form. We open our homes and hearts to strangers who provided resources and sometimes challenging conversations about how we should parent our children. We try what others have for our children and family because they walked through the stage we are in now. I have listened to others stories of diagnosis before there was any awareness or support. I can’t imagine navigating all the systems before the internet age. We have had the opportunity to learn and grow from others paths. They walked the hard roads before awareness and paved the way for us to talk about our experiences.

Before I was given the gift of mothering these spectacular children, I worried about how I could grow as a person and what mark I would leave on this world. After I held both of my children in my arms, my focus shifted outward.

How could I give them everything they needed? What can I pass on to them that will shape who they are?

I wanted to provide a safe landing place they could return to anytime they felt lost. To have an open door I would be standing behind to catch them when they fall. I wanted them to know they would be circled in love and try and accept the choices they made for themselves.

As we parent our children, our mindset often changes based on who they are, and our children help shape what our parenting will be. All parents reach out to those who have come before them for tips and solidarity.

As my focus shifted outward, my hopes of being a security net for my children when they need me haven’t changed. The wide net has expanded to a community that now catch me when I fall.

To the parents who have come before, who talk and share about your experience, thank you. I have learned so much. You have allowed me to learn from your life and to change what I thought this parenting journey would look like with a fresh perspective. To absorb the wins every day, feel the feelings, know that it is normal to sit with them sometimes, snuggle in our children, learn from yours and all your kindness. I will embrace the kindness, learn from the daily fresh starts, and find comfort in your story.

This post originally appeared on www.peaceofautism.com.