The Adventures Of Fatherhood – March 5, 2021

How hard to push is a constant mental battle with our kids.

Expectations are a good thing, but it requires more intestinal fortitude from parents than I ever could have imagined. Though our home dynamic is unique with a kid with Autism, I think it’s true each kid must be parented differently.

With our 12-year-old Beckett, maintaining high expectations with him is complicated. One day this week after school he was outside playing football, soccer and skateboarding with friends for more than three hours. It was great to see them enjoying being outside and having fun.

When he came inside, we told him it’s time to shift gears, have dinner and do homework. He had other things in mind. He wasn’t hungry and wanted to jump on his phone and Facetime with friends. He made it sound like he needed some downtime. To us, it was bewildering. He needed to kick back and rest before doing his homework and having dinner. We said it was fine for a bit while giggling to ourselves.

An hour later, he was still talking with friends, but we insisted he eat dinner. An hour later, he had done some of his homework. An hour later, he had started his last assignment, but it was not completed. By 9 p.m., I had enough of the procrastinating, telling him no more chatting until his homework was done.

We later had a long talk on how to go about the after-school time. He abhors these sorts of discussions. We don’t think he should have to walk into the house and do his homework the second he walks in the door (though we had great luck with that when he was little). We know the school environment is challenging for him. Therefore, we agree he needs to get outside and move around.

It’s about balance. If he works hard at school (and this particular day he had three tests), he should be able to have fun for a while before doing his homework. I don’t think it’s asking too much for him to fit in 45 minutes of homework in between three hours of playing outside and two hours of talking with friends inside before bed.

In his tween mind of warped fairness concepts, it’s unreasonable because his friends don’t have as much homework as him and they get to stay online hours past we allow him. He says, “so and so parent’s trust him.” I told him it’s because the boy’s parents are not aware he is texting and calling you at 4 a.m. on a school night. He said again his parents trust him.

The conversation goes around and around like this often with our middle school kid. I’m told often this is just how middle school is and advised to just weather the storm of constant battles. I’m looking forward to sunny skies on this front, though I don’t expect us to roll back expectations anytime soon.

It’s different with our special needs son Carson, but balance with him centers around independence. I was thinking about this week after dropping him off at school one morning.

It was 7:40 in the morning and I had already taken 4,000 steps without working out, according to my FitBit. It was just the morning routine around the house. I realized I am doing too much for him and with him in the morning. He should be able to brush his teeth when he wakes up, get dressed on his own and gather his school belongings. I don’t see a time when he’s making his own lunch, but he could pitch in with making his own breakfast.

It’s going to take time, but I am guilty of taking the path of least resistance. It’s easier for me to just do everything because I will do it right. Though it’s helping him in the short term, it’s doing nothing for him in the long run. It seems to be causing a sense of entitlement. I need to get it together.

Aside from the daily exhaustion each morning from all the running around required before school, it hit home recently when Pam and I were watching the movie, “Peanut Butter Falcon.” I fully recommend it if you have not seen it.

It’s a 2019 movie about a 22-year-old man, Zak, with Down syndrome who does not have a legal guardian. It chronicles his journey as he runs away from a nursing home where he lives in nothing but his underwear to pursue his dream of attending a wresting school called The Salt Water Redneck. Zak befriends Tyler, a troubled, but kind-hearted, waterman who takes him under his wing and agrees to escort him to the wrestling school.

Zak’s caretaker at the nursing home, Eleanor, catches up with Zak and Tyler and insists on returning him to the nursing home where he is safe and can be cared for appropriately. Though blunt and not well spoken, Tyler has an exchange with Eleanor that hit home. It’s a little rough and pardon the language being used but he was convincing Eleanor Zak should not be underestimated. He encouraged her to give him more credit because he can be more independent than she realizes. By the way she has coddled him and micromanaged him, Tyler said, “You might not be saying the word ‘retard’, alright, I’ll give you that, but you damn sure as making him feel retarded. That ain’t going to help his life.”

The concept is called “ableism.” It’s certainly unintentional and comes from love, but it’s something I am going to work on starting next week.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.