“You cannot keep backing away from these things- and you definitely can’t keep backing away from your own son.”
Alex is selfish and lost, no doubt about it. People have these ideas of their future children and when it turns out to be difficult or ‘different’ from those dreams some parents do everything in their power to learn and others battle with their own failings. I am more than familiar with the autism spectrum, as our own son fell under the umbrella and the unexpected things in a simple day that can go wrong. The truth is, as much as Alex infuriated and irritated me, he is human and an honest take on how some fathers (and mothers) deal with things, or avoid them.
Parenting any child, however angelic, is a trial but more so when the child is autistic. No one comes with instructions and no matter how much the doctors ‘know’, our children are not their diagnosis, none of us are text book cases, and at heart they are just as individual as anyone. Parenting a child with autism is having to know how to anticipate the future in any day, more so depending on the severity but for all children there are things that you just can’t predict. How much worse when both spouses are not completely invested?
Like it or not, all of us brings the past into our marriage. We carry the teachings, the examples, the failures and fears of our childhood for better or worse. All children have needs, more so with Autism, and knowing how to cope is not a strength ingrained in all. It’s a learning process. Alex has his reasons for his reactions, it isn’t about excusing his behavior but more explaining why. There is always hope for change.
There is so much heartbreak in a simple day, but there is beauty too. You can’t control the world, but maybe Alex can learn to see his son as more than ‘autistic’. From the outside it’s easy to hate Alex, to think he is selfish- I saw someone afraid, unsure how to connect. With Sam, connections can be as meaningful as connections with any other loved ones, it just takes a different route to get there. Maybe he isn’t the problem at all, maybe… just maybe Sam is the one to teach Alex. Maybe Alex is the one whose feelings are ill defined. Alex may find a bridge through Minecraft, the truth is for many people (autistic or even just shy folks) games are ice-breakers. It was true for my own son when he was young.
This is what I would call a ‘coming into fatherhood’ story, because Alex is stumbling but he will get there! Lovely.
Out today September 6, 2016
St. Martin’s Press