Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Any parent knows that raising a child is difficult, but raising a child with autism presents special challenges that test a parent’s patience, character, and faith. In some families, these challenges also test marriages, often breaking them apart and leaving those children to be raised by single mothers. While I am in awe of my autism mom friends who have raised their children on their own, I am thankful that I was never placed in that position. Despite the various struggles and frustrations autism has brought to our family, Ed has remained steadfast in his love and commitment to me and to Alex. I’m not certain that Alex fully realizes how blessed he is to have Ed as his father, but I do. On this Father’s Day, I’m not only grateful for the big things that that make Ed such a special father, but I’m also touched by the smaller gestures that could go unnoticed but mean so much.

1. When the three of us are driving in the car, Ed frequently checks the rear view mirror to see what Alex is doing in the back seat as we’re riding along. I often catch him smiling as he observes Alex enjoying the ride or swaying to music on the radio, and this makes me smile, too.

2.  Alex’s impaired motor skills makes teaching him sports difficult, yet Ed continues to teach him patiently, telling him the same instructions repeatedly. When we are at the miniature golf course, Alex is distracted by all the sights and sounds, but Ed never gives up trying to show him how to putt correctly, his hands over Alex’s on the golf club, reminding him to look at the ball as Alex looks at everything but the ball. I have to laugh every time he asks Alex, “Are you looking at the ball?” because I know Alex is not. Nonetheless, he never gives up trying to show him the proper technique.

3. Various times when Alex has awakened in the middle of the night, Ed has slept on the floor next to Alex’s bed to reassure him and to allow all three of us to get some sleep. I’m not sure how much Alex realized Ed’s sacrifice of comfort, but I’m certain that he felt comfort and security knowing his daddy was close at hand in the night.

4. Using a skill he has learned from his father, Alex loves to tease, and he finds joining with one of us to tease the other parent especially amusing. When Ed is making fun of my gullibility in believing stories that he has created, Alex finds this terribly amusing. Similarly, he likes to align with me when I’m teasing Ed about his sighing impatiently when he’s driving and frustrated by other drivers or having to wait for red lights. Alex also enjoys making fun of Ed’s Brooklyn accent, especially the way he pronounces alarm, Florida, foreign, and donkey, and he can perfectly imitate Ed’s extra or absent r’s and his distinctive vowel sounds. Even though Alex and I are finding humor at Ed’s expense, he is always a good sport about the teasing and laughs along with us.

5. Over the years, we have tried a variety of interventions to help make Alex better, and Ed has consistently supported whatever therapies or medical treatments I wanted to implement. From visual therapy to music therapy to chelation and many others along the way, Ed has trusted my judgment, knowing that I had fully researched the pros and cons of the approach, and has never questioned the time and expense we needed to pursue a treatment. When something didn’t work, he minimized the disappointment I felt, assuring me that at least we tried. When something did work, he shared my enthusiasm that we had taken a step in the right direction. I have always appreciated that he has understood my need to seek ways to improve Alex’s health and skills and that he trusts my decisions. I’m certain that Alex would not have made the progress he has, had it not been for Ed’s confidence in me, especially those times when I wasn’t feeling completely confident myself.

For these reasons and many more, I’m thankful on this Father’s Day and every day that Alex has such a loving and devoted father. Happy Father’s Day to all fathers who have blessed their children’s lives, and especially those autism dads who love their children unconditionally.

“For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12

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