Thursday, July 15, 2010

Complements

Tomorrow Ed and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. Along with our unconditional love for each other and Alex as well as our mutual respect, a key to the success of our marriage has been how well we balance and complement each other. While Ed is calm and take-charge, I am energetic and organized; these traits serve us well. For instance, we have an understanding about the division of tasks. If I call the plumber, Ed will explain the problem to him once he arrives. If I make the doctor’s appointment, Ed will go. In raising Alex, we have needed to pull together—sometimes as a couple and other times taking turns as individuals—to make the best life for our family.

Over the years, we have learned how to work cooperatively to help Alex. While I suspect that Ed sometimes wishes that there were a mute button for me, he patiently listens and offers his opinions when I share with him the autism research I have found. He has always trusted my judgment on medical options and various therapies, and he has consistently supported which paths I wanted to take to help Alex, even those that were somewhat unconventional. That faith in me has given me confidence to pursue a variety of interventions that have made Alex better. In addition, we have learned to work together with Alex to accommodate his needs, including sharing home schooling responsibilities. Sometimes we have had to make up stories to relieve Alex’s fears, each one contributing part of the fabrication, supporting the other, to convince Alex there was no reason to worry. Other times, we had to maneuver Alex physically to prevent his having a meltdown in public, a strange dance where we both knew the rhythms to move him deftly. Ed has jokingly said that the two of us could work for the Witness Protection Program because we could get Alex in and out of places without anyone noticing he was there—sometimes we were on either side of him and holding his hands, and other times one walked in front of Alex while the other walked behind him. By collaborating, we have kept Alex safe and content.

Fortunately, because of our job schedules, one or both of us have always been home with Alex. In fact, we were both home with him for the first eight months of his life because I was on maternity leave, and Ed was on sabbatical from teaching his college classes. Early on, we shared responsibility for Alex’s care, including feedings and diaper changes, adopting a schedule that worked well for us. Since Ed is a night owl, he would stay up late and give Alex his 2 A.M. bottle, and because I’m a morning person, I would get up to feed him at 5 A.M. Several years later, when we had to do round-the-clock chelation to eliminate the toxic metals in Alex’s system, we adopted a similar schedule. Ed gave Alex the midnight pill, we both got up to do the 3 A.M. dose, and I gave him his chelation medication at 6 A.M. I sometimes refer to our schedules during the school year as tag-team parenting because Ed is home with Alex in the mornings while I’m teaching, and then I’m home with Alex in the afternoons while Ed is teaching. On the evenings that Ed isn’t teaching classes, we’re both home, and we’re fortunate to have weekends and summers to spend together as a family. Sometimes tag-team parenting has taken on new meaning when Alex was going through challenging phases. When one of us needed a break from Alex’s demands, the other stepped up and took care of him. I am baffled how single parents—and there are many of them—raise children with autism alone. Whether providing support, allowing one parent to have free time, or working together to help the child, a strong marriage is a blessing for the parents as well as the child with autism. When the passage from I Corinthians was read at our wedding, I had no idea how prophetic those words truly are; now I am grateful for the steadfastness, faith, hope, and endurance love has given us, strengthening our marriage as we raise the precious son God has given to us.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance.”
I Corinthians 13:7

3 comments:

K. C. said...

That's so wonderful! You two know how to strike a good balance in your lives together. And just think what an amazing example of love and togetherness for Alex to have always known. Happy (early) anniversary!

Anonymous said...

Pam, this is another beautifully written entry that brought me to tears. It's clear that God had a special plan when he brought you and Ed together to love and complement each other and to form a nurturing home for Alex. Happy Anniversary!

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, K.C. and Mom, for your nice comments and your anniversary wishes. I'm sure God meant for Ed and me to be together; it took a lot of maneuvering for Him to get Ed from Brooklyn to Utah to Indiana to find me. :)
Love, Pam