I’ve made a deliberate attempt to keep this blog light, because I have so many reasons to laugh at what my weird kid does that I just want you to laugh too.
Dmitry’s delays have profoundly affected us as a family and made planning for the future difficult-to-impossible. This is to be expected with any child likely to be “low-functioning” his entire life. But I still occasionally feel a bit guilty, like I’m not getting the “full package” that autism seems to bring into many other parents’ lives.
Dmitry isn’t mean. He’s rarely what you’d call “out of control”, and he’s good in public as long as we plan ahead with toy distractions and keep him fed and don’t hang out in one place for too long.
My wife and I are very much in love, and we’ve avoided much of the heart-breaking estrangement, followed by divorce, that happens with frightening regularity in special needs families.
Dmitry doesn’t hit or bite, and is entirely safe with other children, therapists, family, babysitters and teachers.
He is copiously affectionate, and allows his daddy to comfort him many days. Mommy is still the bee’s knees and number one in his world, but Daddy plays an important part in his life too. What a relief! He’s always excited to see me and often runs up to give me a hug so I will hang him upside down and he’ll bless me with peals of laughter and joyous giggling. I’ve never felt a sense of detachment from him.
Our support system is beyond awesome. Our family and friends show nothing but support and understanding, we have grandparents lining up to babysit, and Mommy and I get a date night once per month entirely without children.
He has slept through the night since he was perhaps a year old (though he often gets up early, around six), and is weirdly easy to put to down each night, as long as it’s in his own bed. He falls asleep easily in the car and has endured multiple 3+ hour rides with less complaint than his older brothers.
Public meltdowns are few and far between. Other than a few dirty looks from the noise-averse biddies in church, public judgment has been generally understanding (with an occasional slice of pity).
Once we finally got his diagnosis, proper care has been fairly smooth to line up, without fighting tooth and nail with the school system and the state, or ponying up thousands of dollars in
bribes fees and service charges for intensive therapy. Arizona has her problems like any other state, but the quality of autism care is commendable!
But in my blog crawling, I read stories like this, and this, and this story that I will never take it upon myself to judge except to say that every child is precious and there is always reason to hope, as long as you have it in you to seek and find it. I feel like I’m not getting the “full autism experience” when I read other blogs. Not that any mommy or daddy blogger just drones on and on about what a mess being an autism parent has turned out to be, no. Not that at all. But autism parents seem to face difficulties on a far more regular basis than I do, and I’m willing to admit that my sunny disposition towards autism is influenced by this fact.
Sure, he’s destructive. Incredibly destructive in fact, like that time when he broke a solid wooden chair we’ve had for 5 years long before he even turned 3. Or my piano. Or Mommy’s $800 computer, or her $300 replacement computer. He’s nonverbal, and has the attention span of an ADD goldfish on crack. But it didn’t even occur to me to start a blog dedicated to the extreme trials, heartbreak, and hope-to-carry-on of being an autism dad. Now granted I don’t get to experience him in full force every day like his mother does. She sports her share of bruises from when a deceptively strong, excitable autistic boy starts flopping around. She’s the one washing spit out of her thoroughly-chewed hair and scrubbing urine out of the carpet. I’m away at work almost the entire day, so mom cleans up 99% of the messes he makes. Though I began writing this post at 5:40 am while Dmitry happily chomps Honey Nut Chex at my side, that’s hardly the travail that brave autism mommies face on a daily basis.
On the other hand he’s nonverbal/non-communicative, and I occasionally envy those parents who can have some sort of conversation with their child, even if it’s just a communication of a need. I’m getting mightily tired of guessing exactly what Dmitry is freaking out about this time, because he won’t just tell me. He can’t.
So if I could donate just a little Dmitry’s gentleness to a mother struggling with aggression, I’d do it for the sake of that poor mother and her sanity. But I’d also trade a little bit of communication to Dmitry at the cost of a shred of his bubbly, affectionate personality. But I don’t get to make those decisions. I’m just a dad, and I play the hand I’m dealt. So I’ll continue to sigh in thankfulness (and maybe a little relief) that my derpy little Dmitry has been such a steady source of joy, laughs and love.