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Life in the Carpool Lane

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...surely made me lose my mind.

Back in 2008, as I waited in the carpool lane at my son's school, I started closely watching a mom who always parked a couple of cars in front of me. As an emotional mom of a newly diagnosed ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) child, I often wondered what it was like to not live in our world. How lucky for those moms who did not have to deal with autism, I thought.

During this dark period in my life, I mourned the future I felt was taken away from my five-year-old upon his autism label. I also struggled to understand my two recent miscarriages. But this mom before me, well, her life seemed perfect. Every day she pulled up as usual and unknowingly entertained me. Apparently, I was also becoming quite the stalker. Oh, the shame. She picked up a healthy little boy who was about three years old and held a second child in her arms. Fit and with effortlessly styled blonde hair, she always kept a smile on her face. Geez, how annoying. One happy family with no issues like mine! What was not to envy? This is what I so wanted; a healthy second baby that had yet to happen, and that easy life I seemed to think parents of typical children had and took for granted.

Months later, I received an odd e-mail from my husband. As he got a physical that day, the nurse mentioned her best friend, who also had a child on the spectrum. She would be calling me, he said. I rolled my eyes as I read it. Great, yet another mom with whom someone wants me to connect. It seemed to be the norm in those days. And so she called, we spoke for like an hour, and scheduled a playdate.

It was April Fools' Day; of course it was. My new ASD mom friend happened to live blocks away from my house, and her son attended my son's school too. What a coincidence! Her front door was wide open when I arrived. I called out, and she yelled for me to come on in. The perky blonde then peeked her head through the door, and I gasped. There she was, the mystery carpool mom. April Fools' Day on me!

It couldn't be! Why did she have to be an ASD mom too? So much for my "the grass is greener" theory. I felt angry, and my heart sank. All of this time, as I assumed she didn't have a care in the world, and I felt sorry for myself, she was going down my same path. I could not help but wonder how bizarre this scenario had been. Did I maybe come off this way to others as well? After all, despite my inner doubt and pain, I also couldn't help but smile when picking up my son. He happened to be pretty perfect too; autism or not! Perspective. What a lesson learned about what happens when we judge and assume!

The following year, Kristi planned the most beautiful baby shower for me. Finally, my dream second baby was on his way! The daily carpool afternoons were then spent chatting it up together. I no longer imagined her "happy" life, and I was now in it. "Happy" turned out to be an imposed state of mind (over matter).

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Twelve years later, our friendship continues to evolve. Despite the hardships and challenges life brings, we continue to find ways to smile. Today, our roles have shifted from moms of newly diagnosed children, to mentors and advocates for other families on this journey. Sharing our experiences and lessons learned brings us much joy, even though we now live (and carpool) counties apart.

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