As a blogger, I can write posts and leave them in my drafts folder to edit and post later. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a really long time. Too long. Especially since I’ve been pondering this idea for many years. This post has gone through several iterations, and I’m just now gathering up the courage to post it. The original text was written after a week of troubling episodes in our home. Jamie and I were at our wit’s end with Max. It was written in a pretty vulnerable state of mind.
As you get to know me, you’ll come to understand that the most important aspect of my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ. While everything in this blog has to do with autism, the central focus of the Youngquist family is God. He gives us the strength to be better parents. His love for us is what allows us to love each other better. It is in Him where we put our hope. And it is through Him that I’ve learned a ton about grace.
As a parent, grace has to be the most convicting of virtues. When we mess up, we want grace for whatever we did that screwed things up. If we have the strength to own our faults and want to make things right, we want nothing more than for those we affected to extend us a little grace and forgiveness.
As a parent though, the tables get turned somewhat. When our kids mess up, our immediate response is often “You know better”. It’s so easy to lose track of that same grace we crave when we need it.
As a parent of an autistic child, this notion can be magnified exponentially.
I so desperately want my son to grow and develop, and move past his social quirks that, if go unchanged, will make his life very challenging and lonely. He is so hard on the people he genuinely loves. We work so diligently to teach him manners and how to interact with others – mostly things he can’t say to people when he’s frustrated. When he is mean and nasty to us and his peers, it’s devastating. I often wonder what his adolescent and adult relationships will be like.
When he continues to treat others poorly, I tend to lose my patience. We work so hard to help him, and then he throws it all out the window, often causing tears from those affected. It makes me a little sad and a lot angry. Why can’t he just be nice? Why doesn’t he get it? Am I not getting through to him? It’s frustrating.
In almost every case over the last couple years, after the dust has settled on me losing my patience (and often my cool), I realize that I’ve forgotten completely about grace. I have to stop myself and say, “Wait a minute. I do similar stupid things that probably upset my Heaven’y Father just like Max does when I get irritated with him.” How am I any different?
As a Christian, it’s by grace we are forgiven for our sin against God. We didn’t have to do anything to earn it. Jesus took care of our consequences for that sin at the cross. Grace is free for all of us if we have the faith to believe.
Being a parent has given me such a deeper understanding of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. And as a parent of a child with special needs it’s even more clear. How many times do I mess up and act out in defiance against my Heavenly Father? Practically every day. Does he ever say, “Why can’t you just be nice?”, or “Why don’t you get it?”, or “Am I not getting through to you?” He doesn’t. He never loses his patience or his cool with me. He extends me the grace only He can extend.
We’re on a several-day autism bender. I’m worn out. When I’m all out of grace, it’s convicting. I know better. Why can’t I extend the grace to my son that God extends to me? While I know that’s not humanly possible, I still have to ask myself.
When it gets really bad, like right now, the weight gets pretty heavy. I get pretty hard on myself. I say things to myself like, “You suck as a father. You’ve been screwing this up your entire parenting life. You’ll never get it. Your kid deserves better.”
Ironically, that same grace I receive freely from God when I mess up is the same grace He extends when he speaks different words into my life. “Chad, I told you a long time ago you had an interesting road ahead of you. It’s not going to be easy. That’s why I’m here. I want to help. You’re the only father I trust with Max. He’s one of my most precious and beautiful creations. I love him more than you’ll ever understand. Don’t think for a second I didn’t place him under your care for a reason. I trust you. I will give you the strength and grace you need to do this. So stand firm in me.”
While I continue to work with Max on how he treats those around him, I understand I walk a fine line. We haven’t, and never will use Autism as a “get out of jail fee” card. He has to learn how to interact socially. And over time, I think he will adapt. But at the same time, I absolutely have to do a better job at extending him grace. I know it’s what God does for me.
God, please allow your grace to flow through me as I parent my children. I can’t do it without you. I need your help and the continual reminder that the grace you extend to me is the same grace you extend to Max. I need more of your grace for him. Help me be the best dad I can be. Every moment of every day. Thank you.
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