In less than a week, we are releasing a book about life with our autistic son. The project started as a recommendation from a friend. The original intent was to share our challenges as a family and give an inside look at what life can be like with autism. While we’ve worked on the book, I have also thought about my own reasons for publishing our story.
To me, our story is not some tale of overcome obstacles and miraculous happenings that somehow made us a special family. I wanted to share my imperfections and what I’ve learned about myself in my role as a parent. I also include stories where I think I got things right. My favorite story to tell is when my son started drawing and found a way to communicate how he saw the world. My only guide was intuition and a sense that helping him draw was the right thing to do. When he broke through and started drawing the things around him, I finally felt that there was some hope.
As the release date draws closer, I’ve also realized that I want to help other parents relax and understand that there isn’t one right way to parent. Too many times parents are comparing their family with others while forgetting that not every family has the same strengths and weaknesses. People make mistakes and that includes parents when raising their children. If families can learn to open up, ask for help and admit to mistakes, this provides the best example for our children. It shows by example that even when we do the wrong thing, there is a path forward. The pain and hurt will still exist but it’s better to deal with it in the moment instead of letting it linger and causing even more problems.
For all of the other imperfect parents who want to do better, you aren’t alone, remember to be kind and respectful to yourself so you can be kind and respectful to your children. And I’ve found that children practice what they are taught, even when the lessons aren’t the ones we’ve thought about.
Photos by J.T. Harpster