“Three Wrongs Do Not An Essay Make” – How one memory derailed my writing plan

An editor approached me a couple of months back, asking if I would share with her readers my journey as a dad with a special needs child; in particular the period following my son’s official ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis.

My first thought was: “Ok, sure. That diagnosis happened more than two years ago so very likely I had journaled about it already. So just let me dig through my archive and find the account. Easy-peasy.”

Right?

Wrong.

Yes, there were snippets I recorded about the months following his diagnosis. However, I never actually sat down and wrote the whole story of how he came to be diagnosed and how we as a family reacted.

Even in the last 14 months, when my story of becoming a stay home dad came into light via a few media exposures (check out my About page), there was never in those pieces any lengthy descriptions of that part of my journey parenting an ASD kid.

Well again no big deal, I thought. Just piece together those snippets, add in details where needed and voila! I would have that essay.

Right?

Wrong again.

I’ve been sitting on this “project” for two months now. At first I told myself (and that editor) I was busy with other stuff (which was true, cross my heart). And if that fails, I can always blame it on Life right? I mean this IS Singapore after all, home to the second busiest nation of people in the world. And we are STILL living in a pandemic, so there are other more pressing issues and concerns to tackle.

But the truth was that when I finally sat down this past week to write that essay, I found myself stuck with an incident that happened when my son was five months old. Though he was officially diagnosed more than six years later, this incident was pivotal in understanding him, and how several “little incidents” thereafter eventually led to his ASD diagnosis in December 2017.

In my opinion, that incident just had to be included to help provide much needed background. After all, no actor can stand on a stage without the backdrop and props to contextualise his story for the audience, right? Or so I told myself.

So my plan this week was simple.

Finish reporting on that incident, post it here today, then move quickly to the months following his diagnosis and our family’s response, and complete that essay she requested by next week. I thought to myself: “If I can just finish this bit, then everything else will fall neatly into place and my essay can pretty much write itself.”

Right?

Wrong yet again.

I got as far as the climax of that incident.

And then I stopped.

And I lingered.

And the words just ceased to flow. In its place instead flowed tears, tears I thought I had pretty much gotten rid of nine years ago.

All the emotions of that fateful Saturday evening in his fifth month of life conspired to immobilise me. I found myself unable to write on. It was as if I had hit a wall, one I couldn’t bash through like Juggernaut, or ghost through like J’onn J’onzz.

I know eventually I’ll get the words down and the piece written.

But not this week. Not yet.

It needs to sit with me a little longer before I dare open the tourniquet and let the platelets flow.

So if you’re reading this Madam Editor, thanks for the challenge, and sorry for the delay.

I’ll get around to your essay soon. I promise. Because what happened this week only showed me how badly I need to write this. Not just for your readers. Not just for my son and my family.

But also for me. For I feel like a dam, after a prolong and heavy downpour, that must release all that pent-up water or risk permanent damage!

Right now however, I just need to take a deep breath.

And linger.

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