Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life of a Special Needs Dad

Parenting isn't easy, I think all parents can agree. But when you have a child with special needs, it takes parenting to a whole new level. We spent the last four days on a family "vacation"... hahahaha. (Seriously - work is more of a vacation than spending four solid days with three kids ages 6, 5 and 3!) But overall it was a great trip, LOTS of ups and downs but we try to focus on the positive. JD is actually getting a lot better at the whole vacation thing. The first day is always really rough, as we go through all the transitions of checking in, getting to the room, getting to the pool, etc.

Today for Father's Day, Jason and I decided to take the kids to go to Downtown Disney to see Cars Master Weekend. It's a car show that includes the Disney Cars - Lightning McQueen, Mater, Finn McMissel. Now I'm not really sure what in the world was going through our minds as we decided this but once we got into the parking lot I knew we were in for a FANTASTIC day, lol. Three kids, 100 degree heat, about a million people crammed in a small space, and a line about a mile long (1 hr exactly) to actually see the Cars. Hmmmm.... ok, decision time. Do we 1. - back out at the parking lot and feel that wrath of three kids screaming because they didn't get to go, or 2. spend the next two hours in the heat, listening to the kids complain, and smile at each other in mutual grief? We opted for #2. 

Now normally when we go anywhere I post all the good pictures, not the meltdowns. But sometimes I like to capture the reality that is special-needs parenting. Today was one of those days as I watched Jason deal with a meltdown the size of Texas as we left Downtown Disney without a Buzz Lightyear in hand. Now, about an hour prior, JD saw some kid holding one of those spinning Buzz Lightyear's and from that moment on he was obsessed with getting one. Now, of course we could have bought the stupid Buzz Lightyear, however, then we have to buy THREE. One for each kid. A $10 purchase is now costing me $30, so no thanks Disney, we'll go without. Especially since it will end up in the massive mound of toys, long forgotten is less than 24 hours. However that decision came with a massive autism tantrum. 

When JD has his mind set on something, it's SET. There's no turning back (hmmm, I wonder where he gets that from?) Now, I understand that all kids are like this, but with autism it's taken to the Nth degree. And now that JD is getting bigger (he's 5 and a half), it's really hard to chalk up those tantrums to the terrible twos or threes. Now he just looks like a super spoiled kid and it feels like the stares come from everyone in a mile radius. 

Jason always has the wonderful duty of stepping in during those tantrums, picking JD up and walking out from wherever we are. Every single time it happens I thank God that he gave me a husband that is 6 foot 3 and has super muscles so he can throw a 60-pound child over his shoulder without a blink. I can't do it anymore - JD is just too big and too strong. He fights back, hits, punches, bites and screams. It's the most stressful situation I've ever been in. My job during those moments is to grab Ashley and Kyle and follow Jason out as quickly as possible.

It's times like those that I remember how much having a child with autism has changed our lives. Lots of parents can't take it, some check out and some even leave. The divorce rate for parents of children with autism is extremely high. And I can understand why - it's extremely stressful. ANY family outing has the potential for a nightmare. But my husband has never taken the easy road out - he is probably the best dad I could have ever asked for. 

When JD was diagnosed, Jason came with me to EVERY doctor's appointment. He came to EVERY therapist evaluation, and a lot of his actual therapy sessions. He has been at EVERY school meeting, and knows all of the kid's teachers by their first names. I don't know how many times JD's teachers and therapists have said to me how unusual that is - most dads leave it to the moms. I'm always shocked when they tell me that because Jason would never want to be anywhere else.

So to celebrate this Father's Day, I want to share some of the moments that make my husband special. He's a superhero to me! :) 

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