Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

A break from my musings for Father’s Day

I’ve written a lot about my ASD son and about the parenting decisions we made.

I know that in modern society the burden of parenting -- and the work -- often falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women. This is in part because we have a fairly traditional division of labor, and we fall into those patterns for a variety of reasons. One of those would be economic.

In our house, we decided that whoever was making more money would continue to work. The reality of our situation was that that was my husband. I think it’s the reality of a lot of families, although I do know at least one whose wife earned more and therefore continued to work - and then they had twins.

But, in my house, my husband was the higher earner. I thought - naively and incredibly optimistically - that I could find an hour or two in a day to write. Babies sleep twelve hours a day, right? Mine frequently did. Unfortunately, in the first two months, he could sleep his twelve hours in alternating 30 minute chunks for the entire twenty-four hour period. This is not, as you might expect, conducive to thought, let alone productive writing.

So, my husband went back to work.

But he felt - as I’ve admitted I did - that work was easier than being at home with an infant. He came home immediately after work. He left a little later in the mornings, because he’d take our son while I curled up in bed in a daze. I was a new mother; I couldn’t fully relax if my son was not in the hands of someone I did not absolutely trust.

I went back to work part-time at the bookstore when my son was six months old. I worked a full day on Saturday. We discovered that my oldest son would not drink from a bottle of any kind. We tried them all. He simply refused.

So…my husband had a cranky, hungry child every Saturday. He would come to meet me for lunch, and I would nurse my son while we ate, and take him for the hour while my husband decompressed, and then he would take my son home, where he would basically eat nothing until I walked in through the door.

To say he was cranky by this point would be an understatement. I felt horrible because at least when my husband was at work, my son was not hungry. But my husband, who was frazzled, did not insist that I give up the part-time work. He said, “I’m his father. I am going to have to come up with coping strategies. They won’t - and can’t - be the same as yours, obviously - but I still have to have them in place.”

(My son, on those days, made up for the not eating in the day by nursing throughout the rest of the night. At his age, he was perfectly capable of going without food for six hours, but in theory those six hours were night-time hours, which is when many babies do unfathomable-to-us things like: sleep.)

There was no discussion about our children that was reluctant on the part of my husband. There was no decision that, when mutually undertaken, was not his work as well as mine.

In fact, in some cases, it was more his work, than mine. He is unfailingly patient. He has never once lost his temper. He doesn’t swear, he doesn’t raise his voice. Even when he is at his most frustrated. In fact, I do remember one night, when, at thirteen, my oldest son was clearly exhausted and frustrated and in tears. He was shouting at his father; I could hear this while I was working. I didn’t expect to hear his father’s response because, as I mentioned, he doesn’t shout.

But I closed up the computer and went upstairs to see what had happened; they were in our bedroom; my husband was putting away the clean laundry while my son was having his version of a teenage meltdown (they were much quieter and much more rational than the same at age two, thank god). I asked what the problem was (in more or less exactly those words), and my husband said, “we’re just having a discussion.” This caused my oldest son to shriek with frustration.

Well, it didn’t really sound like my version of a discussion either. So I listened to my son explain what the problem was, and finally recapped (which I often do when discussing things with my son: I explain what I think he said in my own words to make sure that I understood it; he either confirms this or he corrects it).

“Let me get this straight. You are having an argument about nothing with your father because you are trying to make him lose his temper?”

And he shouted, “YES!” Because, ASD. He didn’t have the social ability to build excuses into his foul moods or his actions. “Dad never gets angry! Dad’s a robot!

My husband continued what he was doing, although he was, of course, listening. I said, “Sweetheart,” (an endearment I use when I am somewhat perplexed or annoyed), “what makes you think your father never gets angry? Of course he does. Everyone does. Your father doesn’t express anger the way you and I do, but he definitely feels anger. It’s important to your father not to lose control over the expression of emotion, and he is the person we are both trying to grow up to be.”

This was a diversion. “But you’re an adult.”

“Yes. And clearly, even adults have things they are still struggling to learn. In the meantime, there’s no point in this - you might as well ask your dad to go berserk and shoot or stab people in a blind rage: it is never going to happen. You will be here all night, and at some point, mom will lose her temper.”

I am not sure where the argument would have gone, but at this point, the youngest came running in, jumped on the bed and said, “Why is everyone having fun in here without me?”

Which of course caused his brother to laugh, dispersing the rest of his mood.

My mother is constantly in awe at the things my husband both supports and even tolerates. When it comes to the kids - actually, no, when it comes to the family, there is very, very little that he begrudges. For years, we didn’t own a car; we have never owned a new one. He is willing to work on a slow and pokey computer, and in one case, when finances were very tight and one of our computers died, a machine that to all intents and purposes belonged to my five year old. (I, on the other hand, found that difficult because my son was so quietly disappointed when he couldn’t use the machine because of said work.)

He used to spend money on war games. On computer games. I would love to see him do that again one day. But all of his focus and his energy went into the kids. He cooks. He does household chores. He is a much better homework regulator than I am.

I think, when we are young, we look for perfect partners. We might even find them. But we don’t always look ahead to the day when partner becomes parent. Parenting is hard. Sometimes it is grueling. Sometimes the relationship paradigm shifts so drastically with the advent of children, if we’re not prepared for it - and who is? - and we don’t work hard, the primary relationship itself becomes too frayed to hold together.

But our son was our son. There was no division of labor that placed sole responsibility on my shoulders; I had my son when my husband was at work, and he came home as quickly as possible to give me a much needed mental health break.

I don’t often talk about my husband, and in part, that’s upbringing. You know that old adage? The more you complain the longer god lets you live? It’s a little bit of that. I’m afraid, sometimes, that if I am inordinately proud of him, if I am obviously too grateful, something Bad Will Happen. But…it’s Father’s Day, today, and in honor of the day, I wanted to write this. I understand that I am extremely lucky. That I’m blessed.

That both of my children are. The great thing is: they seem to be aware of this. My oldest learned quickly that not all parents are like his father. In fact, he learned quickly that very few fathers are like his father; it was a huge shock to him; he had base assumptions about the role of parents due to his own experiences and observations.

And now, I am going to go upstairs and ask my husband - as I often do - to read my LiveJournal.

I hope you are all having a happy father’s day today.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2012 12:18 am (UTC)
A very happy father's day to him!
Jun. 18th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)

...imagine, a father who doesn't shout O.O
Jun. 19th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
..imagine, a father who doesn't shout O.O

My father was not a shouter, either; my mother had the raised voice. But if my father did lose his temper - I think it happened maybe four times in my childhood - it was impressive, for a value of impressive that had the force of Natural Disaster.
Jun. 19th, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)
Well, for normal annoyances the mother, yes.

But my father was either totally quiet and disinterested (once we had our own opinions - he quite enjoyed playing with small kids - if he had time), or he was screaming full-frontal and if it was bad enough we got hit on the bottom, too. I was unable to stand up to my father until I had been in the UK for a year, and then when he screamed at me in the street, I could see the ridiculous side and screamed back.

My brother can't cry, because my father shouted at him that a boy doesn't cry until he stopped doing it as a kid.

We're a very conservative family values household - my mother an East-Prussian refugee from World War 2 and my dad an Arabian raised in Damascus.

We never lacked for money, but unconditional love never existed and respect for their kids opinion once they were teenagers - not so much. Still, we still help each other when necessary (in the case of my parents, my mother organises it if she feels it is warranted and my dad follows along), and I think that's the best that can be expected.
Jun. 18th, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
Your posts are awesome in general but this one brought tears to my eyes. I hope your husband enjoyed reading this and that he had a great Father's Day.
Jun. 19th, 2012 01:57 am (UTC)
Your posts are awesome in general but this one brought tears to my eyes. I hope your husband enjoyed reading this and that he had a great Father's Day.

Thank you. I often feel I don't thank him enough, and of course his through processes and mine are different - it made parenting interesting, but we often covered a wider angle of view between the two of us.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 19th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
Awed. At both of you. My marriage failed in large part to his "helping" with the children he'd insisted he wanted and yet proved ghastly at raising.

I think it's really hard to leave someone you don't trust as a parent with your kids. Even if that person is also a parent. It is one thing I did not have to face =/.
Jun. 18th, 2012 11:05 am (UTC)
Jun. 18th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
I hope you had a good father's day too.
T is an amazing human being. As, of course, are you.
Jun. 18th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
the man in our lives
In awe of your husband for you and blessed and feeling guilty for me cos my girls and i, we have one too and have never really told him how wonderful and easy he has made our lives. I think when we have a husband and father that somehow fits that picture in our head and heart we think he must feel the same way about us or else he wouldn't want to be with us and so there's no need to say or do anything extra to show how much he means to us. You have woken me up and we'll try harder to do more and be more for him
Lisa Cohen
Jun. 18th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
thank you
I read your posts on my RSS feed, and I don't think I've ever come here to comment. I'm sorry about that because your posts are very moving to me. I, too, have an ASD son, and I'm certain that if the dx were available in my own childhood, I'd have been identified as on the spectrum as well.

We ended up fumbling our way to many of the same decisions you talk about in making home a safe space for all of us.

I never could have gotten through my children's early years without my wonderful, patient, supportive husband. While I understand our son far more easily that he does, his ability to stay cool and unflappable in the midst of crisis has saved my sanity on many, many occasions.
Jun. 19th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
Re: thank you
While I understand our son far more easily that he does, his ability to stay cool and unflappable in the midst of crisis has saved my sanity on many, many occasions.

This describes us in a lot of ways as well :)
Jun. 18th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
I'm quite envious. But thank you for this glimpse into your parenting experience! I think you are a rare and lucky pair indeed.
Jun. 18th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC)
"Dad's a robot!"

Hee hee hee ...
Jun. 19th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
"Dad's a robot!"

Hee hee hee ...

I know, I know. It's tricky to teach kids that expression is not the same as emotion.

I will step on your foot for laughing, though. Chicago?
Jun. 19th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
Chicago - yes! See you (relatively) soon!
Jun. 18th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I looked at childrearing skill in relationships, but I did look for an assumption that there was nothing in our domestic life that didn't automatically belong to both of us. This was huge to me: I remember having an argument with a boyfriend who was blithely assuming that he would do is own laundry in college, but one day, out in the adult world, he'd have a wife who'd do that for him. Fortunately, I already knew it was a matter of time for that relationship, and really always had.

Of course, one doesn't know how things will actually fall out until one is doing it, and both job responsibilities and health can affect the specifics of who does what. But the thought of living in a relationship where anything was by default all mine: I couldn't do it. I know there are relationships where equal amounts of work are divided along gender lines that work, but for me, that's one of those things I simply could not do.

In some ways, I know it's a luxury, to be able to choose not to live a life in which I'd have no choice about the gender-assigned work I was left alone with and wholly responsible for.

In other ways, it's a luxury that I wish that one day, as a society, we could get to a point where we could all just take it for granted.
Jun. 18th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. Hope he had a great Father's day.
Jun. 23rd, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
He sounds like a really neat guy! (I'm kind of late reading this due to work.) And it shouldn't have to be said, but it's so refreshing to hear about guys helping with kids during the hard parts.

And he shouted, “YES!” Because, ASD. He didn’t have the social ability to build excuses into his foul moods or his actions. “Dad never gets angry! Dad’s a robot!“

I guess shouting yes is odd behavior, but it's kind of refreshing to me. I try to be honest and perceptive about my behavior, and occasionally I get really frustrated for stupid reasons. My amazing friend sammikitten1981 has talked me through most of these times and I'm still amazed and moved that she does this. But that 'yes' sounds exactly like something I might say if I get distracted enough from reality during internal philosophical arguments when I'm in a really really bad mood. It's refreshing to me to read about someone else doing that.

Edit: messed up a verb tense

Edited at 2012-06-23 12:13 pm (UTC)
Jun. 25th, 2012 03:59 am (UTC)
But that 'yes' sounds exactly like something I might say if I get distracted enough from reality during internal philosophical arguments when I'm in a really really bad mood. It's refreshing to me to read about someone else doing that.

This is very much what my oldest was like, too. He didn’t have the filter that attaches a frustration to a general mood. I was at pains to point out that all of us suffer from bad moods - generalized ones - and that it’s better in some ways to acknowledge this up front.

But, sometimes it was unintentionally a bit amusing.
Jun. 25th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
I thought it was funny too! It's just that I found it refreshing also.
Jun. 25th, 2012 03:54 am (UTC)
I know I've thought this before, but I don't think I've said it: Tom is a saint :-)
Jun. 25th, 2012 03:57 am (UTC)
I know I've thought this before, but I don't think I've said it: Tom is a saint :-)

You have no idea :). But yes, he is.

My oldest said, otoh, that he raised unreasonable general parenting expectations, in that my oldest is frequently shocked at the behaviour of other people’s fathers *wry g*. You’ll note the operative word there is fathers.
Jun. 25th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
I am still not entirely convinced that dad is not a robot, for the record.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )