The Painfully Honest Lesson My Autistic Son Taught Me

How I changed my views on myself, all because of my son.

Last updated on Mar 01, 2024

Author and her son Courtesy Of Author

I feel like practically my entire life has been in the pursuit of perfection. Nothing I did was ever good enough for me unless it was perfect. A 99 on a test was never as good as a 100. (I was the one either arguing over an answer or asking for extra credit.) In college, I was the president of my professional fraternity, the section leader, 1st chair, top of the class, leader, the list goes on.

As an adult, I was always trying to one-up myself by adding another accomplishment to my list. I did it because I thought those things would finally make me feel like I was good enough. The thing about living life as a perfectionist is that it usually does create success. I worked hard ... and was rewarded for that. In a society that recognizes overachievers, I was doing amazing but inside I still didn't love myself.


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I still didn't feel like I was good enough. Then I became a parent. (Let the laughter ensue ... ) Anyone who is a parent knows that parenthood is messy and hard and the farthest thing from perfect that you can begin to imagine. To tackle parenting I used the same strategy I had used all my life — work my butt off and fake it till you make it. Smile on the outside and pretend everything is just fine, when on the inside I felt like I was failing.



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I read all the books, talked to the experts, and cried myself to sleep because I just couldn't figure it out and I was afraid to admit that to anyone. My son was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 5, and for about 5 minutes I was relieved — it wasn't my fault. Then my perfectionism kicked in and I went right back to my old ways. Only now I was trying to be the perfect mom — of a kid with autism. I struggled. Oh, I struggled so hard. I couldn't figure it out. I cried and screamed and tried to will things to be different.



One night I laid down in my son's bed because I just wanted to be near him without having to struggle. As I listened to his breath, I started to realize that he didn't need me to be perfect. He didn't need a mom that was shiny and sparkly on Facebook. He didn't need a mom who won every race. He didn't need a mom who signed up for every committee and went to every event.

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He didn't even need a mom who knew everything there was to know about autism. He just needed me to be ME. He needed me to love myself and all of my faults and imperfections because when I began to love myself as I am, I could love him as he was. I didn't need to change him and I didn't need to change myself — I just needed to permit myself to not be perfect. He changed my life. He showed me that when we love ourselves and each other, we are magical. Yes, magical. And magical things can happen in our lives.

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Kelly Covert is an author, speaker, and inner voice coach. She is the creator and host of In Her Voice, a podcast for women who want to live a fulfilling life of purpose guided by their inner voice