To My Papa
In all the things I try to do
I want to do them just like you
I'm watching every move you make
And trying to take each step you take
Although right now I'm sort of small
When I'm with you I feel ten feet tall
Like you, I want to be cool and smart
Cause I love you Papa with all my heart
Father's Day, 2006
I gave this picture to The Husband the Father's Day after we received The Boy's diagnosis. The words "Your son has autism" had been difficult for The Husband to hear.
An autism diagnosis is usually harder for fathers. Just as mothers have expectations of their children, fathers have expectations of their sons. Especially if that father is into sports. They imagine their time will be spent out in the parks tossing a ball around or going to sporting events. Dreams of their son being drafted by their favorite team. Fathers want to live vicariously through their sons. And when a father hears autism, these dreams and expectations are taken away. And I imagine they wonder where they will fit in their son's life.
I often think about how my father or my father-in-law would have handled an autism diagnosis. I doubt either would have left (as so many men often do). But I doubt either of them would be as hands on as The Husband. It's not to say that they were bad fathers, it was just a different generation. The expectations of being a father was simply having a job and being a good provider. No one expected fathers to show up to schools, to talk to teachers, to go to appointments, to spend quality time with their children.
For me, this gift represented the importance of The Husband's role in our lives. I wanted him to know that The Boy's diagnosis didn't change the way they felt about each other. The way that The Boy smiles when he sees his father walk into a room. I wanted The Husband to know: Autism doesn't mean a son needs his father less. It means a son needs his father even more.
I am always amazed by The Husband's patience when dealing with The Boy. I watch as The Husband tries to show The Boy how to toss a football, ride a big wheel or balance on his scooter. And I fall in love every evening, when I watch The Husband climb into The Boy's bed to read a story or sing a song.
But I think my favorite moments are when The Boy jumps up on the sofa while The Husband is watching baseball or football. For a few minutes, The Boy will watch and The Husband will put his arm around his son and try to explain the game. Until of course The Boy gets bored and moves on to something else. But I know to The Husband, those few minutes are all he needs.
He is raising a son and his parenting style isn't atypical or otherwise. Because I know that the diagnosis, hasn't changed the kind of father The Husband would have been, but it's made him a better man than I could have ever hoped for.
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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.