I’ve seen a lot of carrying on this week about Toni Braxton’s new book, most specifically to the snippets that are being distributed far and wide about how she saw her child’s Autism as ‘punishment from God’. A lot of it has been handwringing in the tune of “how can people feel that way”, as if such thoughts make someone a bad parent.
On the other side, I hear a lot of folks expressing the viewpoint of “God gives special children to special people,” and the outcry against that point of view.
This, of course, then inspired an argument between the wife and myself over how I address the issue, because oftentimes, she herself is very outwardly upset and depressed about the Monster’s Autism, whereas I “seem” to have no patience for that point of view.
Now, for starters, I clarified that my issue is not that I don’t “have patience” for being depressed – I’m just a guy, and practical. My being upset doesn’t materially change the situation – in fact, my getting upset about it (which I do frequently) is more a hinderance to helping my child than it is a benefit to anyone or anything – so I’ve long ago made a conscious choice that I just can’t be worried most of the time about how it makes me feel. I can save my being upset about the Monster’s Autism for when I have down-time.
And a lot of the time, it does hurt. This time of year – especially with my interests – I’m bombarded with all kinds of ads talking about things for Fathers’ Day “to do with your kids”. As I’m typing this, my other screen has a big ad for the “Fathers’ Day Catch on the Field” at OPACY… and I don’t know when, if ever, the Monster’s going to be able to do that with me. Thinking about things like that puts me on a dark road, which ends up just getting me bogged down in a darker mood, and… well, that’s not productive. So, as Book of Mormon (the musical, not the real book) suggests, it’s time to either “turn it off (like a light switch)”, or… find the little box those feelings are in and CRUSH IT!
But – how does that factor into the blessing-versus-curse thing?
First – I can’t emphasize enough how much the phrase “God gives special children to special people” ticks me off. I most often hear this phrase uttered by folks without special-needs children, and comes from a place of ignorance. (And, for the record, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” comes second in a photo-finish with the prior phrase.) If you genuinely think this and you fall in the no-child-with-special-needs category, then you can come borrow the Monster for a weekend and see how “special” you feel after two days dealing with it, and see how quickly you’re ready to give him back to us. (I’ll stop ranting now.)
However, I believe that every parent is entitled to take their child’s condition as they’re prepared to do.
If you see your child’s condition as a blessing, more power to you – that makes you a better person than I am, and I genuinely mean that in a heartfelt sense. A lot of us have a hard time, most of the time, seeing the good sides of the way they interact with the world around them, and being able to stay positive and find those silver linings is a blessing in and of itself.
And for the parents who see conditions like Autism as a curse, there needs to be more understanding in both our community and the world. Those parents need to have others in the community – even those who don’t necessarily see it as “punishment from God” – to show more understanding about where those feelings come from, and accept that those feelings are valid, even when we don’t agree.
A little more respect and understanding for all of our feelings on the boat we’re in would go a long way.