"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run."
In case you do not recognize those words, they are from the song, The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers. I can count on one hand how many times I can say that I actually enjoyed country music during my life; 1. during my breakup with my first serious girlfriend; 2. during my breakup with my second serious girlfriend; and 3. when my dog died. When I first heard The Gambler, I was pretty close to my son's current age and I didn't know any better in regards to country music. I suppose certain seemingly trivial things stay with us for the weirdest reasons. And, yes, sometimes country music has a valuable place in the world. Not often...but sometimes.
Many times during my life, I have referenced those exact lyrics when the times got tough. I would try to maintain my composure, and be aware that there are some times that I needed to call it quits before I lost more of what it was that I was not succeeding with. I knew when to walk away, and I knew (sometimes far too often) when to run. Other times, I stayed in the game and lost my shirt. Rarely, I came out ahead when I stuck it out.
As a step-parent (and I will only say "step-parent" once, because I do not consider myself that - I DO consider myself a parent and my son's one and only Dad.), I would be lying if I said I have never wondered "what if I called it quits?" I imagine there are many biological parents out there who have wondered the same thing. Foster parents? Yeah, probably them too. What if I just left? What if I threw in the towel and said, "enough?" What if I folded? What if I walked away? What if I ran?
Relax...I never thought about really leaving, and I never will. I have thought about jumping on the next plane to Jamaica and living off the land, selling certain unmentionables to unsuspecting tourists, and staying for a month or two, but then I came back to reality. Besides, when sitting on the scale of life, staying in a Jamaican prison for partaking in the distribution of illegal substances will not be better than dealing with the frustrations of parenthood on a regular basis, of that I am certain. Well, not 100% certain, since I have never been in a Jamaican prison, but I have a pretty good idea of what one would be like. And, I don't want any parts of that! Not to mention, I'd like to see Holland at some point.
I am not trying to minimize any of the trials and tribulations other parents of (for lack of a better word) "normal" kids have, and I am not saying parents of "special needs" kids have it so bad they deserve a medal, but raising a kid with special needs requires a whole different set of priorities. These priorities can be a bit taxing at times, to say the least. In previous posts, I described all of the fun happy stuff related to kids with Asperger's. Yes, like any other kid, there are warm and fuzzy times, and yes, like any other kid, there are not so fun times while raising them. To describe it another way, or rather, from a different perspective, check out the poem/story Welcome to Holland below. This is a poem that a very good friend of mine suggested I read. She was spot on. Yes, I have dreamed about Italy for a long time.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I do know of a few parents out there who have wished upon the Calgon Gods to take them away on occasion ("Calgon...take me away!"). I do not believe this makes them a bad parent, but I do believe their frustrations and a non-realistic wish of instant sanity are real. The problem is, if it really did happen, the grass would not be greener on the other side.
Being a parent of an Aspie kid does not make me a saint, nor does it make me not want to escape from the mayhem every-so-often. Would I be happy if my son was not an Aspie? Maybe. Would I be happy if my son was perfect in every way, picked up his socks, never had a temper-tantrum, never said he hated me only to want a hug and tell me he loves me five minutes later, or if he was a star athlete-musician-straight A student-thespian kid? Maybe. But, this is not reality. Reality is, every one of us has something different to offer the world. Sometimes it doesn't quite match up to what we had in mind or wanted, but, the fact is, you weren't exactly a gem to raise when you were a kid, either. Ok, maybe you were, but I sure wasn't! The point is, a commitment has been made, and it should....no, it must be honored. Kids do not come with receipts or return policies. Kids R Us is not a place to exchange your Aspie, ADHD, Bipolar, undiagnosed, or whatever, kid for a different model.
So, those days and nights of anger filled emotions that came out of your kid because you asked him to perform a seemingly simple task of putting his dish in the dishwasher that resulted in various household items flying through the air (which isn't fun when your son has one heck of a pitching arm - fortunately, my cat-like reflexes from playing third base are still fairly useable...well, maybe not "cat-like" but I will swear on faster than a sloth-like reflexes), temper-tantrums that make the cat and dog run for cover, those sleepless nights wondering if your kid will be ok alone in the hospital, monitoring his every move to determine if the most recent round of meds will be the golden egg, or the countless times you have preached about good manners, keeping the elbows off the table, not dropping crumbs on the couch, not sneaking sweets, using the napkin instead of the shirt, teaching proper social skills, repeating over and over how important it is to actually wash when he is in the tub and not just sit, and being told you are stupid and not a good parent because you said "no" to your kid when he or she asked for a working model of a WWII M1 Carbine...those days and nights are all a part of raising a kid with special needs. And, no, you cannot just get up and walk away. Well, you can walk away to another room...but you know what I mean.
Being a parent is difficult. Period. What parents fail to realize is, that perfect kid in the neighborhood...yeah, he ain't so perfect all of the time, and yes, his parents get frustrated, too. And they are probably envious of that other kid who seems to be perfect from the outside...yours! So, instead of planning your escape to Italy...alone...look at where you are and want what you have. Holland is pretty nice and has a lot to offer, too. Don't walk away, don't run, don't fold 'em, but do hold them. It makes a difference when your hand isn't exactly what you thought it would be. The surprise behind holding on to the hand you didn't expect is that you discover it's way better than you ever would have picked for yourself. My wife likes to say that it is divine providence -- the unexpected gifts that manifest from great trials in life. Me? I see the adventure. And, I'm willing to admit there is Method (yes, capital "M") in what looks like madness...
Welcome to Holland
Written by Emily Perl KingsleyI am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this…
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!" you say. "What do you mean, Holland?" I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy.
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
Welcome to Holland link HERE (NOTE: This link also leads to a website that has a lot of information for those interested in Autism.
Disclaimer...(Yes, its a repeat of the last one...but the blog above is new!)
First, let me say that I am not a specialist in Asperger's Syndrome, nor do I play one on TV. What I write or say are strictly my own personal observations and beliefs, so please do not sue me because I said something that made you do something that caused a misdiagnosis, or created a problem, or made you do something stupid. Have accountability, go see a professional, and leave my finances alone...besides, you really wouldn't get much anyway, so its probably not worth your time to call the lawyer on the back of the phone book to see if you have a case. Spend that time more wisely, like figuring out how to subscribe to my blog...and don't ask me about that because I'm not even sure how it works! Seriously, though, if some of the things I say seem like they sound very familiar in your family, set up an appointment with a true professional. While you are waiting for their callback, please, continue reading and leave a note!