I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.
It feels like we’ve been living with Caleb forever now. And for most of that time, we’ve also lived with his autism and the challenges they entail.
By now, I should know all too well that he is who he is, and my role as his dad is to support him and not fix him.
Yet it still feels like I’m trying to.
Fix him I mean.
One classic example is his daily morning routine before going to school.
It’s all about getting him out of bed, getting him to pee and brush his teeth. Then, getting him to take his breakfast and after that, back to the loo for the ‘big business’. After that, to get him out of the loo to change into his school uniform and head out of the house with me, his ‘school bus driver’.
Sounds simple enough right? But it’s not.
Since starting primary school last year, it’s been a rough and tumble journey for us. Caleb still resists the above routine at every possible turn.
First, he would resist getting up. Sure, it’s 6 in the morning. I get it. Who would care to wake up then? (Early birds need not reply!)
Then he would resist brushing his teeth, even though it’s us adults doing it for him! (Don’t ask!)
He would then take a lifetime to eat his already tiny portion of breakfast (half a slice of bread on most days, plus a small cup of milk), until we have to literally spoon-feed him.
Then he would need reminders on HOW to change into his school uniform: “Caleb, your pants are frontside back!” “Caleb, your socks are inside out!” A daily *face palm* moment!
Then our dear friend goes running about the house rummaging for a new toy to bring out (cos he always needs to “hold something”). This, despite the fact that he had already agreed the night before what that toy would be.
By then, it’s almost 7 am, the time we need to depart or risk being late for school.
So what follows (before I can finally get him out the door) is lots of shouting, threatening, whining and protesting…and that’s just me!
Sighhh….I’m constantly experiencing an inner tug of war as I try to ‘fix’ my son. It’s like there are two opposing factions inside of me, waging a non-stop battle to get the better of the other. I can feel it each time I’m responding to Caleb’s seemingly stubborn ways.
One would caution me to take a deep breath, and try to speak calmly and patiently. The other would insist I reach for the cane and whip him into submission, shouting angry words at him while doing so.
And when this tug-of-war happens daily….
Of course it’s very possible that we’ve been guilty of condoning him for too long, so you can say we brought it on ourselves.
It’s also possible that his special needs means he really can’t help himself when it comes to recognising what needs to be done NOW versus what can wait.
But it’s also very possible that much of my frustration still stems from the fact that I have unspoken demands and expectations of Caleb that just aren’t realistic.
Like expecting him to understand the concept of time-sensitivity. Or recognising the need to prioritise tasks.
So maybe all these routine challenges just shows I’m not getting it. I’m just not getting it.
And since life has a way of levelling the score, I am getting what I deserved.
I am getting ‘fixed’ by my son with a masterclass about life and the value of acceptance.
So I can learn again and again every day the lesson of accepting him for who he is, and supporting him, rather than fixing him.
God help me!