Unemotional Wreck

There’s a big difference between business and emotion. They are two separate parts of your life and anytime they intersect, it’s supposed to be noted in a major way.

For example, you can have a bad business dealing with someone. That happens. Yet, it takes on a deeper meaning when they have had a personal relationship with you too. It makes their otherwise acceptable business behavior seem harsher than it is. You say things like:

Yeah. He’s been to my house. He’s met my kids. We had him and his wife over for Arbor Day. Can you believe this? I’m the Godfather of his brother’s kid for crying out loud. And he has the nerve to do quit this job on me?

People shake their head and remind you to “not mix business with friendship.” They are just two different worlds.

uw.jpgWhen dealing with professionals, tasked to help my son, though, this setup is impossible to maintain. Everything that Lucas goes through is personal to me. He is one of the two greatest kids I have ever known and caring about his success through life is the most emotional task I have.

He is, however, non-verbal with Autism. So that advancement requires many administrators, professionals, doctors, teachers, specialists, trainers, neurologists, and a whole parade of scholarly educators ready to steer us in the right directions. All of them are very open about Lucas in ways that parents might not be used to. If my son is swinging and missing at milestones, no one pretends he hit a home run.

We wouldn’t want them to anyway. They’re not here to make my wife and I feel better. They’re here to help Lucas. Anything else would be counterproductive.

So that means that when I interact with these professionals, I too have to be professional. I can’t lose my mind over certain statements or jump for joy at others. I need to sit there, process what is being said, and remember that, for my son, I must be a serious and somewhat emotionally detached adult. During this time, I need to look at him as the focus of a directed goal – to make him the best person possible. I can’t look at him as Little Mister Squishy, the boy I live to make laugh and praise endlessly.

I have to put on my grown-up face and listen to grown up things. There will be a time and a place for grand sentimental displays and emotional reactions. These meetings and discussions aren’t those times or places, though. So I try to temporarily alter my view of him and proceed accordingly.

Keep in mind, I’m not just talking about negatives. Sometimes these experts can offer a positive story that sends my mind racing into a million directions. That, much like its negative counterparts, requires a poker-faced reply. This happened recently when our parent-trainer came by and explained how families sometimes use iPhones to communicate with kids like Lucas.

I have stories of children who were completely non-verbal and, through text messaging, they are able to completely communicate. Parents tell me how it has changed their lives.

My immediate response was to jump from my chair to the top of the dining table and exclaim:

What?! Yes! Let’s do that. Get this kid an iPhone. Now! Lucas! Lucas! Come here! Take this. Give me your fingers. What should we teach him first? LOL? Yeah. LOL. I’m pretty funny. He’ll need that one! Yes! LOL! What’s next?

But I can’t do that. So what I do is scrunch up my face with a pensive expression and say:

Hmmm. How terribly interesting. Please elaborate about pertinent case studies.

Yet, in my mind, I’m planning all the stuff I’ll ask him and wondering what jokes I know that are age appropriate for an eight year old. The trainer’s words turn into the trumpet-voiced adults in a Peanuts cartoon.

Of course, it’s the areas that he needs improvement in that sometimes hit the hardest. Someone plainly pointing out milestones your child hasn’t hit yet can be jarring. Even if those things are already on your radar, listening to the words of an outsider stating these perceived shortcomings in such a matter-of-fact way can rock your world in a second.

Well, obviously he’s not reaching these particular goals that were set for this year.

Obviously!? It’s obvious?! What are you saying!? How dare you!

That’s in the head. Out loud, it’s…

Yes. I see. So, what steps can we take to make sure he reaches these goals in the coming months?

Then I dangle my monocle and chew on the end of my pipe. Good day, sir.

It sounds daunting when you realize that both positive and negative comments at these meetings can send me into a mental tailspin trying to balance between father and daddy. It gets even worse when you realize that it’s also the neutral comments that can mess me up too.

This is a good program. Many children start around your son’s age and they can receive services until they are 21 years old and beyond.

Again, the voice turns into Charlie Brown’s mom and I’m picturing Lucas at 21 and beyond. I’m imagining worst case scenarios and probable outcomes. My brain is twisted in eleven different ways and still, I maintain my serious expression of emotionless attention.

It’s what I, like many parents in my position, do every day. Caring for a child like Lucas requires your whole heart. You find yourself doing things you never thought possible and facing realities you never thought you could. You do it because you love your child. I know I do.

He’s my favorite boy and, because of that, I’m willing to suppress my own emotions for the time that he needs to be my focus. I want him to be successful in everything he does. During those professional times, he needs a professional there to represent him. I’m willing to be that professional.

It’s my emotion that makes it so difficult to accomplish that, but also my emotion that pushes me to accomplish that. At times, it feels like the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. For my children, though, I know I can. You’re not supposed to mix business and personal, but my son’s special education and advancement are of the utmost importance. There’s no business that’s more personal to me than that.