I’m sitting at my desk, typing something important for someone important about something important when he shows up. I feel him hovering over my shoulder.
It’s my non-verbal 12-year-old and his gaze is fixed squarely on me. Seeing his reflection in my monitor, I keep typing to finish my thought before dealing with whatever he might need. Before I can, though, he’s already reaching over my shoulder and placing his hand on mine.
Stop, Lucas. I just have to finish this.
It’s as if I said nothing. In fact, his hand presses down even more as I continue to punch the keys.
Stop. Seriously. Just wait.
And, with that, he locks his fingers around mine. I now have typed three lines of gibberish.
What? What do you need?
He begins to back away with my hand in his, trying to lead me from my chair. Some days, I will stand my ground. Some days, I won’t. In all honesty, I already know where I’m going.
There’s a kitchen run, to show me the front of the fridge in an effort to get food. There’s the iPad charging spots, to ask for a different version of the same device he’s already using. There’s a mystery romp around his room to find a cup that he’s finished the juice from. Either way, he needs me.
This somewhat loose story is probably one of the best examples of why writing these posts means so much to me. To someone who doesn’t know my boy or understand how autism affects our family, it can seem like a sad one.
Think about it. He doesn’t stop even though I am busy. He can’t explain what he wants. At 12, these issues would be something that other children might be able to handle on their own. On the surface, it can feel like a negative story. I can hear people shaking their head and commenting, “It must be so hard.”
I’d hear those words and see those reactions on their faces when I would try to tell stories like this in real time. In a true example of how overrated verbal communication truly is, telling tales of my boy to someone can be painful. Their misunderstood reactions can make you feel judged. You want to grab them by the shoulders and say, “I’m not telling you something sad.”
Writing these things down and having people read them allows me to get all the way through to the happy moral with a depressing stop. It lets me get my thoughts out in full before someone gives me that look of pity. It’s that look that usually tanks the conversation halfway through.
That look is misplaced though. Do you know what I got out of that story above? My son knows that I am here for him. He knows who can take care of his problems. He trusts that Dad can get it done.
Sure, there may be many misunderstandings. He might not get that I’m doing work. He might not even understand the concept of typing on a keyboard. He doesn’t know how to fill his cup or serve himself food. There are many parts there that illustrate how much he has left to learn. That’s not lost on me. I’m not pretending otherwise.
However, the one thing he understands is my place in his life. He makes me feel loved, important, and needed.
As his father, that’s my main goal. I want him to know that whatever he needs and whatever I’m doing, he can always come to me. I will solve any issue that I can. If I can’t, I will find someone who will. I don’t care if I’m busy, sick, or worse. His place in life will be taken care of to the best of my ability in every single case.
Will I always make the right decisions? Probably not. I don’t make them for my own life either. We’re all human and even the most well-intentioned among us can falter. However, my mistakes will always be that – mistakes. They will never be due to a lack of caring or prioritizing. My children come first.. I come second. Everything else, at this point, sort of washes out after.
What I’m saying here isn’t revolutionary. Any parent reading can relate. Your kid can be on or off the spectrum. What we do for our kids is above what we do for ourselves. That’s because there’s no greater example of the people we are than the people we send into the world. Our kids are our greatest masterpieces.
I love my son. I have his back. Best part of all? He knows it. Filling a cup on his own? We’re working on it. Knowing that Dad will always be there for him? He’s got that one down pat.
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