I want to tell you the back story, but I can’t. I want to tell you some things that were said in the heat of the moment, but I won’t. I want to be an inspiration, and provide parents like me with tools to help prevent making the same mistakes I have made, but if I do, I run a huge risk.
Easily the biggest challenge of creating this environment where parents can come and learn is doing so without exposing my son to the world. I think I speak for all of us when I say that our biggest lessons learned in life come from being stretched and broken. And in this case, the common denominator of the stretching and breaking is an innocent autistic boy that I love and cherish with all my heart. Each blog post I write is incredibly labor intensive, because that idea is in the front of my mind at all times.
Please keep that in mind as you continue reading. Being vulnerable sucks on its own. Creating a situation where my son is involuntarily vulnerable in an effort to “help others” is not something I take lightly. Hopefully, Max will one day read all of these posts. Hopefully he will get done with them all and simply say, “I love you, dad.” I try to write each post with that in mind.
So today you get a condensed version of a story with an emphasis on the punchline. It was a rough day on several levels. By the time Max got home from school, the meter was in the red. A long, heated discussion ensued about who cares what. Jamie was through trying to calm him down. Max knew it, so he began in on me. His frustration was getting the best of him and he began to say things that didn’t make sense. I got frustrated too. The conversation was shaping up to get pretty ugly pretty fast.
We reached the point in the conversation where Max wouldn’t budge unless he heard me give him the answer he wanted to hear. I wouldn’t give it to him. I just wanted to run. It was so exhausting. My frustration was turning to anger because I couldn’t get through to him. We had been around the carousel of horror too many times to count at this point, and I just wanted off. He then blurted out something irrational. Again.
I looked at him and asked, “MAX! Why do you say those things?!” He paused for a split second. I could see the wheels turning. Then tears came to his eyes as his countenance radically changed. “It’s my AUTISM!” he cried. He punched himself in the chest. “I CAN’T CONTROL IT! I NEED HELP! DAD, WILL YOU PLEASE HELP ME!!?”
I’m just going to pause right there for a second and let you take that in.
I had just witnessed something so miraculous, so inspiring, and so heartbreaking – all at the same time. I watched one of my favorite humans on the planet, for a brief moment, escape the grasp of his neurological disorder and cry for help. It was almost as if the spell had been lifted, and all my walls had come crashing down in one profound, earth-shattering moment.
My overwhelming desire to just run from the situation immediately shifted to wrapping him up in my arms. His intense anger directed at me, in the blink of an eye, turned to surrender as he recognized the reality of the situation. We hugged it out in a long embrace.
It may take me years to unpack all there is to comprehend about those four simple sentences. I don’t really know what else to say at this point. It’s a major landmark in my journey. If you read posts like Grace, or The Chains That Bind, or Seeing Through Different Lenses, you’ll see see that while these moments are monumental in stature, they all feel like growth rings on a tree. Year after year, little by little, a new ring gets added ever so quietly. It’s not until the end of the tree’s life that we get to know what all those tiny rings actually added up to. For me, little by little, I become a better father. I understand a little more. I gain a little more compassion. I love a little better. And with any luck, I can help others along the way.
Thank you for being on this journey with me. I hope you benefit from it. Please feel free to reach out to me with feedback. I love hearing from you.