To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others. - Pope John Paul II
When we learned that our 2nd born child would be a boy, both my husband and I began to imagine what ‘life with boys’ would be like. Our first child, who was quite the girly girl at the time, was all about frilly dresses, dainty dolls, and the color pink. The idea of adding another blessing to the family, and knowing that that blessing would be a boy, filled us with great excitement. We imagined our future would include little blue outfits, Tonka trucks, and scraped knees. We imagined rough and tumble play and making mud pies in the backyard. We imagined we’d one day be sitting on the sidelines at a sporting event cheering him on. We imagined all sorts of typical-boy milestones and super star achievements. Never could we have imagined how far from typical our son would actually be.
Our pride and joy, Ronan still is a super star. He excels in areas that other kids have, but they’ve long surpassed the few capabilities he’s worked years to attain. Dressing himself. Feeding himself. Entertaining himself. It’s taken much, much longer for him to learn about the skill, to want to address the skill, and then to actually master the skill.
Small steps and sometimes even smaller baby steps have gotten Ronan to where he is today. While we’d both love for him to be able to catch up to where his siblings and age-mates are developmentally, we know that for Ronan to accomplish things, it has to be at his pace. That can be hard.
As many years into this journey that we are, the realization that Ronan is still so far behind can make us emotional. We know that Ronan won’t follow in his father’s footsteps and tinker with cars or motorcycles.
He won’t be able to join the military like Daddy did either.
Right now, Ronan won’t jump out of perfectly good airplanes, climb mountains just because they’re there, or go on outdoor adventures like my husband has done most of his adult life. Ronan’s unable to do quite a few things that Daddy’s done or that other people, like his siblings, will grow up and get to do.
We’d love nothing more than for Ronan to be able to join his siblings on wherever life leads them. But at the way things are going, Ronan’s likely going to remain our dependent for many years to come. While we mourn the loss of some of what we expected Ronan’s and our own futures to be like, we do live for moments that bring joy to the life that we are living.
We don’t want Ronan to miss out on some of the outdoor fun that Daddy still likes to do and create opportunities for Ronan to be right there with him. He may not the adventurous soul that his father is, but Ronan gladly takes his Daddy’s hand and follows him wherever he goes.
Complications do knock Ronan down. They knock us down, too. Where other children stay busy with friends, with afterschool activities and with hobbies, Ronan’s time is spent in medical facilities and therapy centers. We’re grateful for the care, and when he’s restored, Ronan gets back up.
Because that’s what Daddies do.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.