2. Grief

My wife told me that my son had been diagnosed with Autism over the phone. I was sitting in the abandoned guardhouse on the southern bank of the Euphrates River that served as the HQ for Special Operations Task Force West in Iraq. It had been three months since I’d seen him. I knew she was worried about him. He’d stopped talking shortly after I left. The regression happened before that really. I hadn’t noticed though. So when she said she was going to have him tested, I figured it would confirm that he was fine. I was wrong. And…

3. Roles

“A woman’s place is in the home. “ “Men are the head of the household. “ “Gender isn’t real, it’s simply a social construct developed by a patriarchal society to divide and subjugate.” These are some positions a cursory scroll of social media today will reveal along the arc of the 21st century gender roles debate. And while sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any up sides to the special needs parenting journey, there are. My favorite one is that I get to sidestep this discussion all together. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion. I just live…

4. Faith

In the early days of our journey, the months after our son’s diagnosis and my return from my last deployment to Iraq, things were unimaginably difficult. He wouldn’t sleep. Whatever devolution and regression that was happening with him drove an aversion to staying still long enough to fall asleep. I would lie in his little bed with him, holding on to him as he kicked and screamed like he was lit on fire. Eventually, he would wear himself out and drift off. Sometimes it took most of the night. Sometimes just hours. There was a night, in the depths of…

8. Guilt

I was sitting in our group circle, surrounded by other men on the special needs parenting journey when our facilitator made an observation. “Y’all are absolutely wrecked with guilt. I hadn’t expected that.” She was right. Most people outside the special needs parenting journey see us from the outside in, as people dealing with immense unfairness and hardship. We’re victims of circumstance looking up at a lifetime of difficulty. We’re people to feel sorry for. Most of the father’s I spend time with on the journey don’t spend much time feeling sorry for ourselves though. Instead, we spend most of…

10. Gratitude

I was gone on Thanksgiving during my last deployment to Iraq. I remember it clearly. It was ten years ago this week. There’s something exceptionally miserable about Thanksgiving over there. It’s a holiday built around gathering together with family to be grateful for what you have. You’re not with your family there though. And most of the time of you’re engaged in the mental gymnastics of keeping your mind off what you don’t have. Happy Fucking Thanksgiving. If you’re lucky someone gives enough of a rip to try to cook something. That tour, we had a barrel-chested mechanic from the…

12. Marriage

Marriage in a special needs family is many things. Easy is not one of them. Around here, we do a passable job at keeping it together in front of other people. We’re awesome on social media. Out in public or at parties or other social events we’re the model couple. We’re helpful, patient and affectionate. It’s not an act. It’s real. But we, like everyone else, tend to signal to the world the best versions of ourselves. Our marriage is no different. We’re a special needs family after all. And it gets ugly sometimes. The honest truth is that I…

13. Anger

A few weeks ago I came downstairs to find my son chewing on my newly purchased Apple Airpods. He had destroyed them. I didn’t leave them out. I put them in their charging case in a drawer. He found them though. Then he pulled them out and ate them. I lost my temper. I’m not prone to violence. I can’t remember any time in my life where I’ve gotten so angry I’ve had to put my hands on someone. Anger for me is mostly about yelling and swearing. I’m a big loud person. And I’ve got a bit of resting…

14. Time

In any enterprise, there’s at least one singular scarce resource; that one thing on which all depends but is limited in its availability. Successful enterprises identify that scarce resource and manage it effectively. Sometimes understanding which resource it is, isn’t obvious. Money problems are often time problems in disguise. Time problems are often lurking talent gaps. Groups that fail to recognize what their true scarcity is fail spectacularly in ways that often puzzle those responsible for their success as they invest more and more in things that don’t matter and fail to protect that which is critical and can’t be…

16. Fear

There’s a family at the end of the bread aisle. The parents are elderly. Their son is about my age…I think. It’s hard to tell their ages really. It’s hard to tell the effects of time from the entropy of a certain sort of life. They snap at each other. They quibble. They’re not too different from any elderly couple who have spent a lifetime together having the same argument in the bread aisle on Sunday evening in the supermarket. There’s a bitterness to it though; a fatigue. They’ve broken off from the outside world. I can see in their…

18. Someday

For most parents, the season of our lives when our children are young looks distinctly different from the rest of our lives. It’s expected. We understand the burden of having young children. We know the time investment that it takes and the limitations of our children’s physical, emotional or temperamental state of being. We adjust accordingly. We don’t take the whirlwind holiday in Europe with toddlers and newborn in tow. We don’t climb Kilimanjaro on maternity leave. The trust we have in the temporary nature of this season is one the the things that gets us through it. And the…