The Son Becomes the Father
June 19, 2011
When we have children, we're supposed to shape their futures and instil in them proper values, good morals, ethics... all that good stuff.
Some things I've learned
Tolerance: I think we've all had those days when we see other children behaving badly and thought to ourselves: "I can't believe their parents let them behave that way." But having children of our own who can't express themselves, can't handle the overwhelming stimulation, can't get the things they want, can't be who they want to be... we begin to understand why those children might be upset, why those parents aren't caving to those crocodile tears and, most of all, how hard it is for both of them. The last thing they need are our judgmental glances.
Being Nonjudgmental: While walking through the mall recently, my wife and I passed a man who clearly did not have much money, possibly not even a house. He did not talk very clearly and didn't seem to have much control over his motor skills. But what he did have was a smile. He pointed to something, mumbled to us and was clearly happy. We smiled and said hello, and glanced to where he pointed.. but not able to understand, we said ok and continued on our way. We both looked at each after, wishing we could do something... but we were not in any position to do that. We both agreed that we certainly could not judge him... not too long ago, we would have both talked about how strange that guy was. Now, all we can think is that this man was someone's son. This man was once a child who has had a whole lifetime of experiences that have led him to this point. We should not judge him. We cannot judge him. He wasn't strange. He is who he is.
Acceptance: It's difficult not to judge those who are different, especially if they seem bizarre compared to what we're used to. But when you put that judgmental tendency aside, you begin to realize just how accepting you can be. I always thought that I was accepting... I had no idea just how hard it is to put away that instinct to label someone as "weird" until I had a child that others would label "weird" themselves. I also see that quality in my son. Everyone is intriguing to him. Everyone is different. And though they may seem bizarre to him, he accepts them. He only wishes that they'd do the same for him.
Compassion: When you have a child who never seems to care if you're stressed or hurt, when you have family that can never seem to understand just how hard it can be sometimes, when you have other people muttering to each other about your child having a meltdown... all you want is for someone to tell you it's ok. To tell you they understand. I used to save my compassion for those who were kind, those that I knew well enough... I was wrong. Thanks to my son, I realize now that compassion should never have to be earned.
Patience: I used to think I was a pretty patient person. I am very much "go with the flow" and don't usually care too much if someone's late or not taking my needs into consideration. As my son got older and missed more milestones, as he tested me more and more, as he had meltdown after meltdown... I realized that I wasn't quite as patient as I used to be. Then came comments from others, lack of support... my patience was tested further. But despite all that, as I learned how and why my son is who he is, I learned that I can wait a little longer; I can put things behind me a little easier. My patience levels are far beyond what they ever were before. I've learned I can wait out a 45-minute meltdown and still be there to calmly console my son when he's ready to hear me.
Unconditional love: My son may one day reveal himself to be an autistic savant... or he may stay where he is or regress to who knows what level. It doesn't matter when it comes to how much I love him. He may never be the person that I pictured him being that very first day I held him in the hospital room... that vision of the future is long gone. But that's ok. His successes, his failures, his future... none of it affects how much I love him. He's still my son. He's still my perfect little boy. He's still my flesh and blood. And nothing, no one and no disorder can ever change that.
A purpose: Until I had children, I was pretty much just living my life day by day, paycheck to paycheck. Having children tends to focus one's purpose quite a bit. But when your child has special needs, your inner instincts take over a bit and you begin to see the world as a big, flawed, dangerous and clumsy place. You start to see that most other people don't have the same acceptance levels for those who are different; they don't have as much patience, tolerance or compassion. Most people fear or ridicule anyone who is different from them and make no effort to understand those differences. What you realize is that your child isn't the only one who needs help. That's when you begin to realize that you're more than just a parent, you're an advocate.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to read our other Father’s Day posts this week!
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