I understand the need for sleep, although I can’t remember the last time I actually had a restful night of it. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when the kids got my wife one of those watch devices that measure your steps, heart rate, and how well you sleep. The first night my wife wore the device to bed it said she got 2 hours of sleep. I thought to myself, can that really be right? As I pondered this I started to realize all of the things that occur at night. There is MC’s nightly trip to the bathroom; he usually tries to climb in our bed which ends the deep sleep. Then there is the nosiest frog I’ve ever heard in the backyard, the cats tearing around the house, and the hamster wheel that squeaks no matter what I do. After thinking about it 2 hours is pretty good!
When I first came up with the idea for a blog, I thought of many reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t: not enough time, I’m not a good enough writer, no one will be interested, etc… but, then I realized all of these reasons were about me! Then I started thinking about how quickly we can talk ourselves out of something by focusing on our self. So I asked myself a different question. Are there parents who are going through challenges? If there are then I should share my information and experiences to help and support others. So if I didn’t write this blog I was being selfish. How weird is that? Isn’t it interesting how changing a question can completely change our perspective? I have found being a parent of a child with autism has forced me to ask a lot of questions differently.
Alright so let’s get to it, Super Dads, if I can write a blog then together we can build this community. I’ll start by sharing a bit about myself and one of my “I wish someone had told me” experiences.
So I’m a happily married husband and father of 4. My 11 year old daughter, AC, has autism. She is super sweet, very social and loves animals (I mean ANY animal). She has an older sister, CJ, who has dyslexia, a younger brother, MC, who has central auditory processing disorder, and an older brother, MJ, has a special condition called being a teenager; I hear they grow out of it. My wife and I homeschool… let me be honest my wife does 99% of the schooling. However, I’ve been told I teach the children 99% of what they shouldn’t do [SD tip: Mom and Dad should provide complimentary education]. For those fellow homeschoolers out there or those who are just curious, I will do a separate piece on that at some point. We’ve been married 20 years and although we come from very different upbringings and at times have very different ideas about how to raise children, we’ve managed to make it work [SD tip: Have your spouse’s back. Kids are the masters of divide and conquer]. Enough about me let’s start building that community!
As promised here is a recent “I wish someone had told me” experience: So AC had finally worn my wife down by continuously talking about fish, fish tanks, aquariums, dolphins, and nearly every other aquatic life form you could imagine. This had been going on for at least week. Many parents have experienced a child driving them crazy over some topic, but those are mere annoyances to the perseverating of an autistic child. The only relief from the topic is when you and they are sleeping, assuming that their continuous, not so subtle, hints haven’t invaded you subconscious. We all eventually reach a point where we’ll do anything to make it stop. So my wife finally decided to take her to the aquarium, because it was cheaper than AC’s idea of getting an aquarium from ATM (Tanked on Animal Planet). The trip was a success, partly because she didn’t take MC and CJ [SD Perspective: I think very carefully before I take all of the kids anywhere by myself. In most cases I would rather run around the zoo’s lion enclosure with a steak strapped to my back]. Of course AC received the standard one toy from the gift shop [SD tip: Mom figured out that a reward for good behavior seems to work. BEWARE of reward creep! That is a child’s attempt to extort the parent for more gifts by a show of unusual affection (you’re the best mom/dad in the world) or by a threat of some horrific public outburst. Remember your embarrassment will be brief, but the child’s victory will make for many future fights.] So after such a positive outing my wife decided to stop by my office so we could talk and take a walk. It was truly a wonderful time. We all walked, talked, and held hands. It was such a wonderful break from the work day I really didn’t want to go back to work, but all good things must come to an end. So I walked AC and my wife back to the car. As we reached the parking lot AC saw something she couldn’t resist. See AC has many things she loves, but there are a few things that she is irresistibly attracted to and in this case she saw the mother of them all. Yes, the BIG RED BUTTON. Honestly, I think we all have a strong desire to push a red button, but for a child with autism and very limited impulse control the desire is simply too much. So faster than the word “stop” could roll off my tongue she had broken free and pressed the button. Then I heard those familiar words, that I’m pretty sure every parent with an autistic child has heard: “Please state your emergency”…deep breath and sigh…sorry my daughter pushed the button.
Alright now all of you are asking what is the “I wish someone had told me” from this story. You ready….anticipation building….STAY CALM. We all seem to be neurotic with worry. The truth is 99.99% of the things we worry about aren’t that big of a deal. When AC was first diagnosed and for many years after that I worried about way too many things. It has only been recently that I realized in most of the cases what I was really worried about is what other people thought. I think one of the wonderful things I learn from AC is that what other people think isn’t all that important. Our energy needs to be focused on enjoying them and protecting them to the best of our ability from real threats to their safety and happiness. Many of us in our community have children that elope, a truly frightening worry for any parent. So love your family and others, but don’t let their opinions become your worries. Ask yourself am I worried because of what someone else thinks or because there is a legitimate threat to my family.