Three more months and Caleb will be 10. But really, my son with autism is more like 5!

My son with autism at nearby playground (8 Oct 2020)

There’s something that happens to a parent when his child turns from a single-digit birthday to a double.

At least it does for this parent.

I’m finding out that as January 2021 approaches, when Caleb turns 10, I seem to be caught up with a feeling of increasing anxiety that I can’t quite explain. All I know is that somehow or other, both my patience and my temper have grown shorter of late.

It’s like that classic scene in every Missions Impossible movie where Tom Cruise’s character receives top secret information to a new mission. Your heart starts to race because in a few seconds you know that message (usually delivered in some high tech gadget) will self-destruct, whereupon his new time-sensitive quest will begin.

That’s how tense I’ve become!

All I know is that everything Caleb does these days irks me anew, even though none of the things are new. It’s not like I didn’t know at all, and am encountering them for the first time.

For example…

Don’t I know his….

Photo from Hit Entertainment Caleb’s a big fan of Bob The Builder

1…eternal love for all things “transportational”?

After all, for as long as we can remember, he’s been playing toy trucks, making road humps from cardboards, constructing fake road works, as well as drawing and building road signs from scrap materials.

And he must have the car GPS turn on every single time, even if we’re driving to the same, familiar places.

2…favourite TV episodes and soundtracks to hum and sing continue to be those from “Max and Ruby” and “Bob the Builder”? Even if the episodes are repeats, he will watch them with such focus and gusto like it’s his first time. And after he’s done, he’ll start monologuing as he role plays scenes from what he just saw.

3….love for making soap bubbles for at least ten minutes before he starts on his daily baths? And if none of us checks in on him, he could stand in the bathroom stark naked forever (something I mentioned before), just making soap bubbles with his now-wet hands while the rest of him is desert dry!

4…mess of toys strewn all over the tables and floors? And how he’s always smashing one action figure against another, making “pow pow” fighting sounds that will startle any small animal!

“Caleb’s not his chronological age!”

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

This never occured to me until my wife said it yesterday.

But when I heard it, I knew instantly that she was right. I had forgotten this stark reality of life for a parent of an autism child.

And what’s more, I had started of late to remind everyone at home within earshot, especially Caleb, that…

…his 10th birthday was coming, so he better grow up fast!

…he better swallow his saliva and stop wearing bibs.

…he “holds his own” so he needn’t wear diapers to sleep every night.

…he completes his meals in under 30 minutes.

I don’t know how it all started, but I’m now regretting it.

Sighhh….guess expectations ingrained in parents for centuries are hard habits to break!

Chronology’s for groups, not individuals

Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

Recently, I stumbled upon a blog post that really puts across so well the challenge we all face as parents of children with autism.

In that post (written in 2014), a mom wrote about her severely autistic 20-year old son who was into Disney big time among many other things that most would deem more age-appropriate for kids half his age.

The writer wisely surmised that age-appropriate behaviours, hobbies, etc are really concepts that come about by way of a majority, a group. It simply isn’t for everyone.

However, because it’s so rampant and entrenched, few of us think twice when we see a grown-up still playing kiddy stuff. Rather, we would almost immediately utter stuff like: “Oh that’s so childish!”.

My ever-wise wife also reminded me in the same breath that if we, Caleb’s parents, don’t even advocate for him and rally against this inappropriate fixation on chronological age, then who will advocate for him?

Maybe because I’m the man of the house, this is proving hard for me. Cos being a man in 2020 AD isn’t all that different from 202 AD. It’s still all about performance and achievements.

But I have seen how my son’s been more afraid of me lately because of my foul temper at his childish antics.

And that just breaks my heart.

So now, with his next birthday on January 14th a mere three months away, the question to ask is :

How do I “overcome age-appropriate conventions” for the sake of my child, and our fragile father-son relationship?

One thought on “Three more months and Caleb will be 10. But really, my son with autism is more like 5!

  1. What a courageous, insightful, and challenging post, Kelvin. Love requires choices and decisions that can be ‘foreign’ to past patterns we have followed. Does a gift stop being a gift when it stops feeling like a gift? Are that gifts that never feel like a gift? You provoke introspection, and most would readily admit that can be uncomfortable yet healing simultaneously.

Leave a Reply