Sunday, July 17, 2011
Yesterday we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary, reminding me of what a blessing our strong marriage is, especially in light of the stresses autism can place upon parents. Last year, in my blog entry, "Complements," I explained how Ed and I balance one another and pull together to help Alex and each other, which explains the secret of our success as a married couple. A year later, our partnership stands even stronger with time and experience, and so I share once again "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 following passage was read at our wedding from I Corinthians 13:7, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance,” 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.
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed." Ecclesiastes 4:9