parent. Initially, I'm sure it had a lot to do with me being the sole milk
provider because believe me, that boy loved his milk. In fact, the incredibly
observant lactation consultant in the hospital smiled while checking Ryan's
latch on ability and said his technique rivaled a barracuda. Did she AWEnestly
think as his prey I was not aware of this? Apparently the observant consultant
failed to see my death grip on the bed sheets and my toes curled to the point of
breaking off. Yes, once my little barracuda latched on, it was hard to break the
seal. Although I stopped nursing Ryan when he was 1, I still haven't been able
to break the seal and most days that works out perfectly, however, even
the best barracuda mothers need a break.
Yes, as the mom, I'm the "go to". I'm the breakfast getter, the butt wiper, the meatless
cheeseburger maker, the homework doer (unless of course it's math, but Ryan
rarely needs help in that subject. Thank you Lord), the shoe tie-er, and the
tear wiper. I love my role...most of the time. However, when the "go to" has the
flu and can't make it to the grocery store then gets berated because the last
Oreo Cakester was consumed 18 hours ago, well then I wish I was the "go from". Or worst yet, if Mom is out, then Dad has to be responsible for melting the cheese on the meatless "cheeseburger" for 15-17 seconds (the time varies based on the degree of thickness the deli folks sliced the Land O Lakes White American). Ryan typically decides to wait for "Mom to do it", so then the endless calls of "When will you be home because I'm starving to death?!" begin. Sigh....sometimes the "go to" pressure can be suffocating.
In addition to clothes shopping, Ryan's food preparation is taken very seriously and if that job is taken out of "go to" Mom's hands, well, that's cause for a four alarm, sound the sirens emergency. Although, Dad is as capable of pouring Ryan a bowl of Fruity Pebbles as "go to" Mom, chances are good that Dad will not put enough milk in the bowl due to his hatred of food wasting and Ryan's failure to finish his milk every morning. Rather than risk a single dry Fruity Pebble, Ryan will wait an extra hour to "let Mom do it".
Besides doubting his father's lack of kitchen prowess, Ryan also ignores Dad more than good old "go to" Mom. Many times Dan has tried to ask Ryan a question, strike up a conversation, or just hang out with his son, only to be ignored. Even though Dan has gotten use to it, I know it still has to hurt.
Sometimes Dan brings the heavy guns, like taking the Wii out of Ryan's room, or unplugging his cable box, but in that moment, when "go to" Mom, who still hasn't broken the seal on her little barracuda, is too weak and retreats to the trenches, "gets it" Dad does what needs to be done for both sides to survive. As ugly as these moments are while the battle rages on, once the dust settles and the casualty report is taken, father and son are much closer. Ryan sees, that even in the toughest moments, when the Wii is being dragged out of his room, that Dad does indeed get him and loves him. Once the tears dry up and father and son are rehashing the battle, and developing strategies to avoid another skirmish, a connection strengthens and there is less ignoring and more cuddling.
Thanks goodness for "gets it" Dad. He "gets" Ryan in many ways, and in many ways, Ryan "gets" his dad. Although Dan does not have autism their brains seemed to be wired similarly. Dan also seems to have a bit of a tape recorder for a brain and can mimic sounds and television characters almost as well as Ryan. For weeks, the Angry Birds, "eeeee heeee" was reserved for Dad and Dad only. Every time Dan entered a room, Ryan would squeal, "eeeee heeee" to which Dan would repeat "eeeee heeee" right back, same intonation, same pitch, same brain. Ryan appreciates and loves that Dad "gets it" too.
One of their favorite movies to watch together is Austin Powers Gold Member (sadly, now Ryan gets most of the adult humor). Since the first time Ryan heard Goldmember call Austin Powers' father "Fah-zsa" (in his Dutch accent), and repeated it regularly, well, it stood to reason that "Dad" should be Fah-zsa too. Ryan will ask, "Where is Fah-zsa?", "Is "Fah-zsa" home yet?" and chances are on Sunday, Dan will be wished a "Happy Fah-zsa's Day". As the mah-zsa, I love watching this exchange between father and son who are similar in so many ways. Nothing makes this mah-zsa's heart melt more than watching fah-zsa and son discuss their shared gift of music as Dan tests Ryan's perfect pitch while Ryan helps Dan tune his guitar. "Gets it" fah-zsa and "gets it" son.
Maybe some dads have a harder time accepting their child's diagnosis, but I don't think it's fair to generalize that dads have a harder time hearing, "Your child has autism" than mothers do. Bottom line is, those words are hard to hear for mah-zsas and fah-zsas. And regardless of his own heartache, it was Ryan's fah-zsa who held me up in the parking lot after we heard those heartbreaking words and continued to remind me that Ryan was the same little boy he was before getting his designer label.
It has been Ryan's fah-zsa who encourages me and validates my work on the front line as he straps my battle boots back on and wrestles the white flag out of my hand when I'm too tired to fight anymore. And it has been Ryan's fah-zsa who reinforces that Ryan's differences, which are more aligned with his own, are just that, differences, and not something that is broken, damaged or needs fixed. Ryan's fah-zsa has never felt anything but pride for his uniquely beautiful little boy. Dan sees so much of himself in Ryan, and Dan knows better than anyone how beautiful his own life has been and there is no one more confident for the great things in store for our little boy.
More importantly though, your child needs YOU, just as much as he needs the perfect cheeseburger maker. The child may starve without the "go to", but chances are in time his survival instinct would kick in and he would eat, regardless of how well fah-zsa melts the cheese. However, without his fah-zsa to protect him, provide for him, understand him and fight for him, chances are that little soldier would surely wither up alone and misunderstood on the battlefield.
To Ryan's Fah-zsa....your son may be too busy perseverating on his latest video game to go out back and toss a football around with you or he may fail to jump up and down with joy when you score tickets to game six of the World Series, but when Ryan cries, "eeeee heeee" as you walk through the door, even though his eyes never leave the television screen, he knows you are there. He knows you have always been there, and most of all, he knows you will always be there.
So, regardless of your seat in the F-14, your position on the battlefield or your inability to cook Velveeta Shells and Cheese, Ryan knows you always have his back....to pat it when he succeeds, to wrap your arms around it when he fails and to shield it when the world gets too big, too loud and too scary. I know that Ryan "gets it".
Thank you for being the "gets it" to my "go to". The "Goose" to my "Maverick". Don't worry, chances are good I will never kill you by ejecting you out of an F-14 since I won't even step foot on a 747, but as my "Goose"....I'd be blind without you. Happy Fah-zsa's Day!