Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Friday, July 25, 2014

Once Upon a Time:

..... And they lived happily ever after.
    When I was a kid that's what I always waited for in the stories. After the big climax. The whole point in the lives of these characters. The Pinnacle, the Acme, the Omega moment. They'd found the Reason for their existence. They had fulfilled their Destinies. From this moment on, everything in their lives would be a cruise. Someone comes up to them the next day and asks, 'What are you going to do today?' They'd look confused by the question for a moment, then shrug and say, 'I don't know... Go fishing I guess.'
   I guess I'd always imagined that the people in the stories had just gone through a concentrated version of what everyone else would consider a lifetime's worth of crap. Therefore, with their karmic crap-reservoir emptied they had nothing else that would mess with them for the rest of their lives. The only thing left to worry about is whether or not the fish are biting, or 'Do I get honey mustard, or ranch for my McNuggets?' (Dude would say, 'Ranch') Because that's the kind of balance I'm looking for in my life. You use up your crap reserves and then, like fossil fuels, once they're gone, it'll be like 400 million years before there'll be any more.
     At this point in my life, I'm pretty sure I was wrong. It may be cynical of me, but I'm considering the opinion that the people in those books didn't have 'easy' lives. It's just that the 'happily' in Happily Ever After, just means that happily we won't have to look in on the really boring, day to day grind parts of these people's lives. The hum-drum every day stuff that would make a reality TV producer jump off a bridge.
    I write a lot here about the highlights, the Sunday Funnies parts of our lives. Mostly because most of the other stuff that goes on with us is boring as hell. At least to us... it's normal... kind of. Dave really does spend about 70% of his life either playing his games, watching his videos (self recorded and others), going to school, and trying to find new ways to integrate cheese into his life. Of the 10% of his time that he actually interacts with outside people (the Straights) maybe 1% is out of our ordinary enough to get me to write about it. Don't get me wrong, it's always an adventure when we're out in public. Dude will randomly and repeatedly tell everyone, 'I'll see you in Vegas next year!' instead of goodbye. Then, 'It's okay... it's only the casinos! At the Vegas, 2015! See you there!' If they look confused about how they'll find him in Vegas, and when we're all supposed to hook-up there. 
My friend Susan and her photoshop again....
She doesn't need to give him any more ideas 
     Sometimes he's oh so very polite, 'How's it going, buddy?' or even 'How are you doing today, sir?' Mostly this happens the weekend after a 'Bad Notes' week. Other (most) times he could care less, quoting movies at rapid speed and increasing volume until even I have to say, 'Hey buddy, tone it down a bit, okay?' Or, when he gets a bit forgetful driving the shopping cart, 'Hey man, watch where you're going, okay?' (I say 'okay' quite a bit) To which he'll reply, 'Oh! Sorry! Sorry! My Bad!' Then he'll persist in his apology until the nervous woman acknowledges him somehow. This may be new and news to the people around us, but to us, it's just the day-to-day. I often wonder why the folks at Giant Eagle think it's so weird.
  One of the blogs I intermittently follow is called Fruity Pebbles for Dinner, it's written by a nice (as far as I know) woman named Leah with 2 children, one autistic, and one not. I'd like to say that I initially chose to read her blog because of the similarities of our experiences. At the time, I was also trying to raise 2 children with different needs, trying to find a balance between the needs of one and the other, and the special needs of my son had also earlier caused my spouse to run for the hills (Prairie, actually, she fled to Kansas). But that would sound to profound and thoughtful, and I don't want to lead you astray. At least not in that direction. Actually I'd seen the title of her blog in someone else's blogroll, thought it was cute, checked it out, liked her writing and immediately added her to my favorites. The other stuff I found out later.
  As I hadn't read her blog in some time, I scanned the less recent posts for anything I might have missed (namely anything in the previous 6 months) and I found one of her posts titled: autism robbed me of my son. It stemmed from another blog she'd read and mildly disagreed with, and at the end of it I found a comment by someone I'm fairly familiar with. Yes, the DudeDad
himself... or myself, rather.
I'ts nostalgia week in the BlogPics. 2008 SO
I agree with you. Autism never robbed ME of anything. Dude is, and always has been Dude and I've always accepted that. What it's robbed him of is a bit trickier of a question. There are certainly things that he could and would be doing without autism that are impossible with it. But for the most part he's a happy kid, and not counting the things Dad makes him do, or school (another Dad idea,he's sure) he's doing what he enjoys. Don't misunderstand me, it's a hard slog on a long road, but it is what it is. And if a 'cure' were suddenly found for autism, I'd actually have to think for a bit before I signed him up for it. I'd definitely sign him up, but I'd have to think about it first.
   As I re-read the comment I'd made in the heat of emotion years earlier I found tears welling up in my eyes again. Also I was nearly overwhelmed with the urge to go upstairs and do something rambunctious with my son, just to have something to do with all these conflicting sad/ warm and fuzzy feelings running through me. The last two lines weren't something I'd have normally said to anyone, not David, Raine, my family, or probably even myself. But somehow there it was for anyone to see. My actual, honest emotional opinion, left out on the interwaves, written for a stranger, someone I'd never met or talked to, or was ever likely to. She'd written some things that touched me and had once quoted me in one of her posts but that kind of flattery doesn't explain opening the doorway to things I'm not even supposed to admit I think about. (I recently looked at her blog again while re-writing this, and was sad to find that she hadn't written anything in over a year.)
   One thing that's stereotypically agreed to by 'helpers' (those who deal with special needs) and 'others' (those who do not) is that each special needs parent has an automatic and overwhelming blind need/desire/ambition to have their 'burden' relieved by having their child 'cured'. No thought required, no hesitation allowed, no exceptions considered. They put themselves into our perceived position and don't even imagine that we wouldn't automatically want a way out of a bad situation. A question springs to my mind: How much is all this for the child, and how much for the parent? I mean, he/she might thank you for it later. But, when I think about it, atypical children are some of the few consistently truly happy people on the planet. The parents are sometimes grumpy (myself included), but most of the kids are having a blast.
   I can hear the question, 'Why wouldn't you want your son to be 'cured'?' But how can you love someone so much for everything they are and not hesitate about the prospect of at least some of that going away? I realize that I'm taking a (supposedly) hypothetical question and treating it with more logic than it probably deserves, but still. Is it really that amazing that I like my barely communicative, stubborn, non-responsive, but incredibly loud son? Or that I love the things he is in spite of his 'condition'.
  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to speak for anyone but myself. I understand that there are plenty of people out there with a much, much tougher row to hoe than I have. But there are also some parents (and others) out there that can get so caught up and bitter about 'what could be' that they miss any chance of seeing the good parts of what is. There are some. Good parts, that is. Tough to find, as elusive as a muffled curse in a crowd. But, hey, if it were easy, anyone could do it.
   Like just about any parent, I look for things in my child that may have been passed down from me. Because Dude is who he is, means that I have to look harder, imagine harder, and possibly lie to myself a bit more than your average parent to find them. What it amazed me (and continues to) was that just like every 'typical' parent who ever parented, there are things that, evidently, only Other People can see. I mentioned something about my search for similarities between the Dudes when Raine interrupted, "Oh he is SOOO like you.' I stopped, startled, and when she didn't go on, I said (in my intelligent male manner), 'Huh?' She laughed, and reiterated, 'Even if I didn't know the two of you, I would still know that he's Your Boy.' She said it that way too, Your Boy. In capitals like it was a title or something, not the kind of prize they give away in Cracker Jacks.
From the Reed Family archives, a
looooooong time ago
    She started ticking off her points on her fingers. 'You both do the 'heavy drama' thing.(Drama? We know not whereof she speaks!) You both quote from the same movies, you're stubborn, hard-headed (I had always thought those were the same thing) (And I am not, neither stubborn!!) you can both be incredibly charming... when you need to be.' (She somehow managed to make that sound like it might not necessarily be a good thing.) 'and you both drive me crazy like no one else can.(Uhhhhh... okay, she's got us there) And you both think it's funny.' (That really didn't come out sounding like it was a good thing. Fun? yes. Good?.... not so much.) Even if I didn't know you, I would know that He was Your Son.' She had said it twice.... Like she really wanted me to know she meant it. I know she would never actually lie to me, but I'm sure she's exaggerating a bit here, just for effect. I'm pretty sure she is, anyway. At least some...
   So, no swords pulled out of stones, no dragons slayed, or maidens rescued. No 'Happily Ever After's' here in Dudeville. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't know what to do with them anyway. We'll just keep the story going for now...


  1. Oh, wow, I have been a stranger to my blog for so long, but I was feeling blue and started scrolling through my blog list and found this. I am honored by the special mention. As always, I identify with so much of what you share. I keep thinking about writing on my blog again. Maybe some day soon ..... I really am a nice person, though some days I am nicer than others. And I frequently feel like I fail my kids. Thank you for continuing to write. :-)

  2. I am so so glad you found this!! And even more so that you responded. I am willing to believe you are a nice person (until the photos are developed) (jk) and I will, in my own procrastinating fashion check to read your stuff if you get back to it. I, myself, occasionally have days when I'm nice---er. I think every parent who cares actually feels that they're failing...lord knows I do. Thank you for reading... I hope you continue to like doing so.