Dear Old Dad

How are you celebrating Father’s Day today?

Every year on Father’s Day, we think about our dads. Favorite memories come up. For me it’s celebrations after swim meets, running road races together as a child and teen, seeing him cheer me on regardless of the situation, helping me with math or a science project, watching sports together, or having him acknowledge me and what I have to offer the world. I am fortunate, my dad was and is present and takes his role seriously.

Dad’s are important. I can’t imagine who I would be or what I would be doing professionally if he weren’t there guiding me through life. So for all the dad’s out there I say, “Thank you!” Your daughter(s) and son(s) are paying attention and grateful for you — your guidance, your presence and your love.

How will you celebrate your father today? What gifts, as a parent, are you giving your child as their father?

Happy Fathers Day!

That’s What Friends Are For

What makes a good friend?

This question has gotten a lot more attention from me as I’ve navigated the struggles my son on the autism spectrum has with making friends. What does make a good friend? Someone who is kind in the moment? Someone who wants to engage with you in a kind and supportive way? There are varying levels of friendship. I think of the friends who have come in and out of my life. I was reminded what a good friend looks like when a woman I have known for years and who I have shared just about everything with asked me timidly, “When was your son diagnosed?” She asked it in a whispered voice, and did a quick glance to ensure no one around had heard the question. While I was reluctant to talk about my son being on the spectrum when I first found out, I have come a long way — I’m happy to talk about it openly, but I remember that feeling of being unsure and uncomfortable, I was picking up on the way she was asking that she was uncomfortable. I responded, “When he was around five,” I paused and lowered my voice, “What’s going on?” She leaned in and said, “I haven’t really talked about this, but my son has spoken a word yet, and he’s two and a half, and we’re not sure why.” I could almost feel her concern. As a parent, when your child seems to have any affliction — whether it is a disease that is tough to treat, or a condition that makes them different than others — it can feel like you are at a crossroads — the childhood you imagined you and your child having will likely not be how you envisioned it to be, and that can be scary. We decided to find a time we could talk more openly. I wanted her to feel comfortable sharing and asking whatever questions she had.

Prior to us meeting, I thought about how I could best show up for her for this conversation. The truth is we don’t know if her son is on the spectrum, he hasn’t been tested and officially diagnosed, but he does exhibit behaviors similar to my son. I could easily jump to conclusions and give her all the information I’ve gained since my son’s diagnosis, but figured that really wasn’t what she needed. She needed to know that everything was going to be okay. Yes, her parental journey would be altered, but it didn’t mean it couldn’t be joyous, it was just going to be different. She asked me to share my story. I shared and then asked her what she was most concerned about. She was very concerned they hadn’t figured out what was behind her son not talking despite seeing doctors and specialists and enlisting the help of therapists and others. The next step was doing a battery of tests to get her son properly diagnosed. “I’m concerned because I need to figure this out before he turns three,” she shared. “What is special about him turning three?” I asked, thinking about how we hadn’t really enlisted help for our son until five. “That’s when it says you have the best chance of early intervention, but we don’t know what he has.” She admitted to spending too much time on the internet and going into various rabbit holes of information that all seemed to lead to a future life of doom and gloom for her son and her family. As she spoke, I was reminded of my intention coming into this meeting, what would a good friend say? I borrowed a phrase we use with our older son, who is always jumping ahead in his life and concerned about his future. I was seeing the same thing in my friend.

“How long have you been a parent?” I asked. “Well, two years” she said, clearly taken aback by the question. “And how are you supposed to know everything, and have it all figured out in two years?” I said. “Well, I guess, you’re right, there’s no way you can figure it all out in two years.” I finished, “Think of your journey like a video game, each year of your child’s life is a level. Right now, you’re on level 2, stay there, don’t try to be on level 5 or 12 or 35. You’re on 2, you’re going to continue to learn and get smarter. You are going to figure this out.” She smiled. Her shoulders relaxed. “You’re right,” she said. “Thanks.” I did end up giving her a few resources that she could reach out to who could give her some sound advice — these resources had been a Godsend to me. As I left our meeting, I thought, I wish I had had a friend or support like this when my son was first diagnosed. There was support available, but I was just too scared to reach out, and I didn’t have any friends talking. I was glad my friend was brave enough to ask. I was glad I could be that support and encouragement. After all, that’s what friends are for.

Are you struggling with raising your child? What does a good friend do to help support you as a parent?

Easter Egg Hunt

My kids have really been looking forward to Easter. While I’d love to say its for the religious significance, its really all about the candy for them. They are looking forward to finding their baskets in the morning and doing an Easter Egg hunt later in the day. Easter to them is a day of seeking and finding big and little treasures.

I’m reminded of an Easter when I was a young child. We were in Florida visiting family and there was an Easter Egg hunt out in a large field. We were told there was one giant egg hidden. We figured this giant egg must be made of chocolate and not a hard boiled one, and all of the kids wanted to find it! I was armed with my Easter basket and ready to go. The countdown began–fivefour-three-two-one—GO! I raced alongside my cousins, sisters and friends across the field.

I found lots of eggs, but few ended up in my basket. My problem while I was great at visually finding them, I wasn’t very fast at picking them up, and the eggs kept getting scooped out from underneath me . I think one of my sisters may have just followed me around to get her bounty! I was good at seeking. She was good at securing! I was very frustrated.

I honestly can’t recall if I got any of those decorated hardboiled eggs. I was so disappointed and thought my empty Easter basket was a reflection on what a poor treasure hunter I was. Easter was supposed to be fun, an easy way to get candy, an easy day to feel good about plants blooming, the weather warming and life being good. But I didn’t feel good.  Embarrassed by my results I sulked over to where some of my older cousins were watching us. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. It wasn’t joy in my failure. It wasn’t a smirk or look of shared disappointment. It was empathy. They were looking at me when one said, “Tricia, you’re getting warmer.” I thought getting warmer? what are they talking about? After a few seconds, I understood. They were talking about the Giant Egg!  I walked a few steps forward. “You’re getting warmer,” they said again. I moved forward again, “colder,” I readjusted and went to the right, “warmer,” one more step, “hot!” I lifted a palmetto branch and lo and behold there was the giant egg!  Success, joy and overall happiness came pouring back in.

My cousins never let on that they helped me find the giant egg. Most people at the hunt hadn’t seen what happened. I was asked afterwards, “how did you know it was there?” and “what made you think to look under that palmetto bush, there are so many of them out here?” I just smiled and looked over, ever so subtly at my older cousins. They had my back. They felt for me and wanted me to have success. They encouraged me. But maybe what was most significant about their act was that they loved me. It was a simple gesture, but very powerful. I felt like the richest person there.

What treasures are you seeking this Easter? What treasures are you hoping your children will find?