Dear Benjamin,

I’m sorry that I don’t write you a monthly letter like Dooce, but I’m afraid that those would become painfully boring and mostly about me because, let’s face it, by nine, what you do each month isn’t much different. I, on the other hand, am endlessly entertaining (to myself). Also, it would require me to do math and math is hard.

I hear a lot of parents talk about how their kid changed their lives, and it’s not that I don’t understand what they mean, but you, my son, you really did change my life. The moment I grabbed that pregnancy test, recently bathed in my own urine, and said, “that can’t be a motherfucking line,” (forgive my language; you always do) because trust me when I say I was TAKING PRECAUTIONS, my life was forever changed.

I went from a carefree unmarried twenty-year old whose main concern was where to find her next twenty bucks for a tank of gas to someone who had to figure out what to do next. So, I scrapped my life’s plans, ditched the whole “Imma be a DOCTOR” idea, waddled back home to my parents, enrolled in nursing school, and then three weeks after I turned twenty-one, I pushed your gigantic head out of my vagina.

Yeah, I’d say that’s a little different than having to give up date night.

But there you were. All 7 pounds 13 ounces of you, with a mane of black hair so shocking that I thought someone had put a wig on you. What amazed me is that everyone was so astounded that I loved you. Over and over I heard, “wow, you really DO love that baby.”

Apparently, I have one hell of a poker face. Also: of COURSE I fucking love you.

This year, though, was the year I was dreading. It was the year I’d been dreading for years, and when I saw it barreling down upon us, my heart shattered.

This was the year you realized you were different than the rest of the world.

Our uniqueness can be a gift, but sometimes, in order to blend in with the rest of the world, we have to put those aside and learn things that come so easily to other people. This year you are trying so hard to understand feelings. Where your brother can look at someone and easily detect what mood they are in, to you, it’s as complex as the Pythagorean theorem.

Does that face mean anger? Sadness? Happiness? It’s a puzzle to you, but for the first time, you realized that just because you can’t understand it, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. It breaks my heart to see you struggle with this, but as you told me yourself, you don’t want to spend your life hurting others. So we practice. Diligently, you practice, and day after day you tell me excitedly, “MOM! I think I’m FINALLY getting this emotion thing!”

My heart smiles, because it’s just such a Ben thing to say.

I am the one who named you. I don’t know if you know that, but I chose your name. Benjamin means “son of the right side” and I hope that, true to your name, you inherited all of the best parts of me. All of the right parts of me.

If the first nine years are any indication, I think we’re both doing okay.

Happy, Happy Number Niner, Benjamin Max,



79 thoughts on “Now, You Are Nine

  1. Good God but you can evoke emotion. This is beautiful and yet I am so envious of you. So so envious. If you only knew how much I wish my son could/would recognize his condition and let me help him.

    Happy Happy Birthday to Ben!

  2. Happy Birthday Ben!

    I am once again awed by your post. Not to go all sappy, but I really do admire your strength and your refusal to give up. Your children are very lucky to have you as their mother, and we are all lucky to “know” you.

  3. Dear Ben,

    Your mom and dad are wonderful people. They love you a whole lot. They have lots of other people who love them, too. This means they’re very special. You’re lucky.



  4. Happy Birthday Ben. — What a well written piece, of course I put on mascara today, damn you (but it was worth the tear – your love for him is fucking awesome)

  5. I just adore everything you write. Your kids, in their own ways, are fighters. That is a legacy that they can attribute to their fiery, amazing mom.

  6. Happy Birthday Ben and congrats to you Aunt Becky for yet another post that makes me happy to have you (through your blog) in my life 🙂

  7. Great letter and all, but I really got stuck on the first line. Does Dooce really write your son a monthly letter? She’s more amazing than I thought…


  8. Awwwww, Happy Birthday Big Boy Child. I hope you always celebrate that which makes you different. If we were all the same, this life would be one boring-ass ride.

  9. Happy birthday, Neener Niner!

    His understanding that he needs to “get” emotions must be a good thing, though, right? At least now he can try. Better than stomping through life oblivious.

    I hate that life has to be so much harder for some children than others. Luckily for The Benster, he has you for a momma. That’s a huge advantage right there.

  10. This entry was so beautiful and heartfelt. Benjamin’s very lucky to have you as his mother. 🙂 🙂

    And being different kicks ass.

  11. Happy Birthday Big Ben!!!! You and your mom(and obviously, the rest of the fam, but today is all about YOU) make the world rock!
    Here’s to a long, long adventure filled life:)

  12. What a great letter! I wanted to cheer at the part where Ben said he’s “getting the emotion thing”! My son is an Aspie but he’s come a long way with the help of a great therapist. He’s getting it too. It’s the best.

    Happy Birthday to Ben, and best to you!

  13. What a wonderful letter! In Hayden’s baby book, there is a spot for each parent to write a letter to him. Almost three years later, neither of us have done it. I cannot imagine having the energy and creativity to do it monthly. Jeez.

  14. Happy Birthday, Ben! You may be different because you have to work to recognize the emotions, but you are also different because, unlike most of the population, you care about doing it. That means your good heart will carry you through whatever challenges you face. And if all else fails, your mom will teach you how to cuss people out. Have a wonderful year!

  15. Once your son gets older, and if he shows inclination towards older chicks, I have a 13 yr old daughter with the exact same issues so they could always get together. She also has an extremely cool mom (who is often completely and wildly inappropriate) so there could be some brutally awesome family dinners. Just hit me up in 20 yrs or so.

    And Happy B-day Ben!

  16. You’re making my heart strings tingle…..such a wonderful letter. I wish my son was 9 again. It’s funny, first they’re crotch parasites, then ankle biters, and then without you even noticing, they turn into the most amazing little people! Wishing the little manboy magic and fun for his birthday!

  17. Happy birthday, Ben!

    My autistic son is just now realizing that he’s different… and that other kids think he’s weird (yes, he gets told this)… and the pain it is causing him (and me) is profound. He’s almost 9, too (in a few more weeks). Sometimes, autism really sucks… and sometimes the rest of society does.

    I hope your gorgeous son had a most-wonderful day. He’s lucky to have you for his mom.

  18. Aw, Becky, I am so proud of you and your boy. I think he sounds really resilient, and that is not true of everybody, typical or atypical, but it will take you far. In your family, you’ve got it in spades.

    Happy birthday Ben!

  19. Happy birthday Ben. When I turned 19, I got a feelings list from a lady I was talking to about some troubles I was having in my life. Way back then in the time of dinosaurs we didn’t really call my style autism, it was called “eccentric”, “unusual” and “difficult”. Regardless, that feelings list changed my whole life. Everytime I felt funny, I had to go to my list and find the right word for how I felt. Some were “umbrella words”, like upset or good, and under those umbrellas sat words like angry, sad, blue, and happy, excited and pleased. It took some practice to get used to thinking about those words, but eventually I could really “feel” those feelings, in my own unique way. Life has been easier ever since.

    Always remember that you have skills that other people don’t have, and those will help you find your way.

    Happy birthday, young man. And happy birthday to your mom, who’s life as a mom began with you.



    1. That’s an AWESOME idea. Feelings list? FREAKING AMAZING IDEA. Would you ever maybe consider talking to my kid? I KNOW THAT SOUNDS WEIRD, but you clearly understand his brain.

      Thank you for this idea. THANK YOU.

      1. Sorry it took me the weekend to (somewhat) respond. Twas my grad reunion (25 years!) last night and I was stocking the bar for it … so that I could have something to do when not feeling totally in my skin, if you will. It was great, even though it is always hard to go back to that time, in a way. The people I grad with are good people, so even if I have waves of uncomfortableness, I know that it is my stuff, not them. (Then I just pseudo-hide behind the bar, with the bartender, who I hired. (Then everybody shows the love, because we don’t run out of booze, like they did at our 20th. Win/win/win.)

        I would LOVE to talk to your kid on the telephone … I’m emailing you later tonight, must do dishes first. Ugh. Dishes. Look for my email later.


  20. I didn’t cry two posts ago because I have been crumpled up on the hospital floor too and am numb to it. Struck too close to home. This… sobs. My daughter has down syndrome. She is an adorable 2 yr old right now with pigtails and an excess of pretty dresses and bows. Most people fawn over her – others who looks a little too long in the grocery store are obviously just having a bad day. What will happen when she is 9? Or 14 and gets a crush on the boy next door? Or 23 and wants to be a mommy? This is what constricts the breathing some mornings. Thank you for writing – I can’t share that much but am grateful someone else can put shape to all my fears.

    1. I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I understand completely. I wish I had some way to say “it’ll be okay” and have it be okay, but you and I both know it doesn’t work that way. I have something in the works that I think you’ll find helpful, a place for all of us, but it’s no solution.

      If you ever want to talk, my email button is up at the top. I also have a phone.

      Much love.

  21. I was a little behind in reading this week, after taking my big one off to school, and between your Wednesday post and Ben’s birthday letter, I’m just bawling….

    Happy Birthday to Ben. Hope Niner is good to him.

  22. You know Aunt Becky, I don’t believe in god and stuff, but there is that saying, that you never get more than you can handle… I am amazed at how much you can handle. I know it is not like you have a choice, but damn, girl, you handle things with such grace and amazingness. I can’t imagine Ben having a better Mom to help him grow and learn. And with all the other things you are going through, that you find the time to devote to each little crotch parasite as if they were the only one. You are my hero. I hope I can be half as awesome with my own little crotch parasites. Happy Birthday Ben, you are one lucky kid!

  23. Happy birthday, Ben!

    Psst! Wanna know a secret? Even the ‘normal’ people can have trouble sometimes with this emotion thing, you just have trouble all the time. But you’ll figure it out, don’t worry (and when you do, I might hit you up for an explanation or two, ‘kay?).

  24. I know we’re going to struggle with the feelings thing too. Maybe to add on to what Karen said, this is kind of something that I did with the Mini to quell my crazy brains need for organization, and it’s working out so well, that I’m going to do this for emotional things too, since he can’t read body language.

    a visual chart. print out pictures of various emotions and then the corresponding words. Laminate them with clear contact paper, and then put velcro on the back of them. viola! It’ll help him see the subtle nuances of facial expressions.

  25. Loving birthday wishes, to you, Ben. I’m the momma of a girl who has been where you are. She is now 18 and one of the most awesome people in the world. Here are some things we learned that might help you. 1) Yes, it sucks to be different in ways that make you socially awkward. But you can learn and adapt and you will be OK. It sucks much worse to be different in ways that make you a dick (judgmental, nasty, mean to other people, etc). Some people never outgrow that. They will miss getting to know a lot of really awesome people and they will never appreciate life and experience love the way you will. 2) Understanding specifically how you are different is a huge relief. Before that, you know there’s something “wrong” with you but you don’t know what it is and you feel bad about yourself in general. When you learn specifically what it is, you can say: Oh, is that all? I can learn to deal with that! It could be worse! I could be a dick! 3) You don’t have control over how other kids treat you, but you can choose how you react. (Once you recover from the initial shock, I guess. I don’t think you ever get used to meanness) Anyway, your experiences can make you bitter, or they can make you better. My daughter knows what it feels like to be ostracized and teased and taunted. She has developed great empathy and a huge heart and is pursuing a career in human services. She is taking a year off between high school and college to volunteer and get experience that will help her find a job. She volunteers for a soup kitchen, employment center for homeless people, shelter for women, center for immigrants, programs for people with developmental disabilities, and SPCA. 4) Survival tip: Find a healthy escape for when things get overwhelming. For my daughter, it’s music. She plays guitar and sings. She also volunteers. For a while she escaped through drinking, drugs, violence, shoplifting, panhandling, running away, cutting, burning herself, abusive relationships, getting in fights, and other harmful stuff. Her dad and I didn’t think she’d live to see her 18th birthday. We saved her life (and our own) by getting her away from home into a series of residential treatment programs. They were insanely expensive and we only had access to them b/c her dad (my ex-husband) had a high-paying job. 5) It’s better to have no friends than to have “friends” who are bad for you. When my daughter came home from treatment and stopped drinking and using, she lost all the friends she thought would always be there for her. It was a really painful lesson. 6) You can count on your parents. You have an awesome mom and dad and while you won’t always like what they do, especially when you’re a teenager, you can trust that they always have your best interests at heart. No matter what you do, they will always love you and they will always be there for you. That is an incredible advantage you have over many other kids out there. 7) What helped us both a lot was lots of couch time and good meds. My daughter was diagnosed with ADD in fifth grade. Took her dad and me awhile to get comfortable with giving her meds. When I saw what a HUGE difference they made in her life, I wish so much we had figured it out earlier. A few years later she was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability. Your mom might want to look that up. It helped us understand why my daughter couldn’t read other kids’ faces so didn’t know when they were mad at something she did (like get too close to them, b/c she didn’t understand personal space). Also explained why she sucked at sports. She literally couldn’t tell which way to run on the field. She made a great goalie, though. That’s just two of many examples I could give. She was also diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and probably other stuff I forget now. The right meds really helped her function and thrive. But at times she was over medicated and that’s something to watch for, too. Parting words: I promise you that you’re going to grow up to be absolutely awesome. It won’t always be easy, but when things get bad, remember: they will get better. Just hang in there. And laugh a lot.
    Much love to you both!

  26. Awww, gosh. What a darling boy.

    & yeah, way different than giving up date night, holy smokes!

    A friend and a cousin each have a son with autism…they are roughly 13/14.

    I remember visiting a couple years ago, and there was much encouragement of sleepovers with friends, so that the bonds would be really tight before they went off to the scarefest of jr high.

    Happy Birthday [& mom-day!], belated, & best wishes!

  27. Happy birthday, Ben! What an amazing story, and an amazing story behind the name. My brother shares your name, and I’d have to say he inherited the best of my parents; I hope you did the same.

    Becky, kids change your life no matter what, but you’re right, yours was more life-changing than most. You’ve handled it with grace that I think would have come hard to me. Happy birthday to both of you!

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