My husband, Steve, wrote this a few years ago. Steve is a wonderful father to all three of our boys and I felt this needs to be shared. Enjoy!
Yep, this is going to be a long post, but I felt the need to share a bit more about Autism. You may have heard the phrase “God only gives special children to special people.” Nope, he simply blesses us with children, period. Sure it’s hard, but considering parents of kids with special needs to be ‘saints’ overestimates us and underestimates our children. We’re not “excellent” parents, we do what we have to do.
In our case, Brandon deserves the admiration. He’s a cheerful, loving, quirky, smart kid who is lot of fun to be around. His autism is secondary to the fact that he’s an amazing person, he’s a person with autism, not an autistic person. Parenting him isn’t some magnanimous act we do out of the goodness of our hearts, he’s our child. We feel the same about Brandon as his two brothers, we’re every bit as lucky to have all of them as kids as they are to have us as parents.
In the past I’ve mostly posted about Autism as a negative thing, about how much it affects what I *can’t* do in my life. There’s so much more to him and to our family life than that, and I feel I’ve done my son a disservice by focusing on that in the past.
Right now I want to share what’s awesome about Brandon and all the things he’s taught me, my wife, and his brothers.
1. His True Happiness. His sheer joy of life makes me smile every day. Yes, his exuberance can be frustrating because of the constant self-stimulatory behavior with the noise, hand clapping, laughing, and jumping, but it’s hard to deny the happiness behind it. He makes me smile much more than he makes me frown. He also loves “kisses”, which are actually him simply leaning over and sniffing your hair.
2. His True Love and acceptance. The fact that he still loves hugs always makes me smile. He can feel the energy we all carry with us. If we are worried, stressed, or concerned, he knows that. He also knows that he’s truly and deeply loved and accepted. It allows him to be who he is with abandon and to freely explore who he is and feel confident in who he is. Love and acceptance allow us all to flourish into who we genuinely are. He always reminds me of that.
3. He shows us that the Little things matter. His success is my success, and I appreciate the little things much more than I would have without him. Being a good parent has little to do with the material things we can give our kids or the things our children accomplish. Our presence, our care, and our love are our real gifts. Growing up knowing that your parents are there for you in a genuine, connected way is a huge gift to and it allows them to feel whole, accepted, and loved. This is success as a parent and it’s what I try to give him. In his own way, Brandon always makes me feel connected. Seeing him participate and sing along in his Christmas musicals in grade school always made me tear up, it was so difficult for him to do it, and so rewarding to see him accomplish one of his group performances.
4. He’s given us an unexpected journey. When we encounter the unexpected in life, it’s easy to react with resistance. “This isn’t what I planned or expected. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go,” you might think (or at least I did). But meeting life with this kind of resistance makes the journey much more difficult. Think about how it feels when someone or something resists you. It often causes you to unconsciously put your guard up in response. On the other hand, when you’re met with acceptance, you bring a different energy to the situation. I’ve learned to react much more positively to things in life in general because of Brandon, and I’m a better person because of it.
5. He’s shown us that perfection is not a worthy goal for anyone. Striving toward perfection is a sure way to make sure you’re disappointed in the end. It’s great to have goals, intentions, and aspirations; but demanding faultlessness of anyone makes reality into the enemy. If I want Brandon to accept himself for who he is, it’s a good idea to start by showing him that I accept myself for who I am, despite my faults. He’s shown me that imperfection can be perfect.
6. He’s shown us that we all have special needs. Each one of us is an individual with strengths and weaknesses, as well as unique gifts we are here to share. Brandon has shown me that in so many ways. He’s won several blue ribbons in the special olympics, he’s a great runner, and it’s something I’ll never do. If we can embrace our needs and those of others without fear, we can meet life in a more powerful way.
7. His idiosyncrasies and his personality are heartwarming. Instead of saying Thank you, he says “Thank you, say you’re welcome”. At the grocery store, he isn’t happy unless we buy at least two of his favorite items, one won’t do. He’s so willing to help, he’ll put his laundry away, take out the trash, clean up after himself, and loves doing it. He doesn’t complain, he just likes to help. Despite his communication difficulties, he reads simple books with surprising proficiency. He never complains about tagging along for events that are not about him, like sports and band events for his brothers. He loves music, and his diversity of what he likes is impressive. For all his challenges, he’s incredibly well rounded with diverse interests.
Above all, Brandon’s shown me that it’s possible to learn a great deal from your own child, and gain a different perspective on what’s real and what really matters. He’s changed me and made me a better person in so many ways. Thank you, God, for blessing me and my family with someone as perfect as him.