69: Back and Forth

69: Back and Forth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Back and Forth

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.

~Anne Geddes

For William’s third birthday we got him a swing set. Not just swings, but swings, monkey bars, a climbing wall, a slide, a ladder, a rope ladder, and bars to hang from — it was amazing!

We got it for him because I got tired of hauling him to the park. We had a few neighborhood parks near our house, and had a good time on Saturday mornings taking a ride in the red wagon down the block to the park. That part I didn’t mind; in fact, I enjoyed pulling William in the wagon. He wouldn’t talk or make much noise, but I would still talk to him. I would tell him about the homes we were passing and I would describe the materials or the architectural style of the homes, or I would comment on how pretty or ugly I thought the houses were. That part I enjoyed, maybe because I held out the hope that he would just “snap out of it” and say, “Gee, Dad, you’re right, that soffit is painted the wrong color for a porch,” or something like that.

What I got tired of was getting to the park and then him not wanting to play there. We’d get there and he would just sit in the wagon or want to run away and I’d have to beg him to play.

But when he did fixate on the park, it was always the swings. I swear, he would swing for hours if you would push him . . . and that’s where I really got aggravated. I would start pushing him and he would say, “Go fast,” or “Higher,” and that’s all he’d say for about ten minutes or more. Yes, I was grateful that my child was speaking, but I didn’t want to hear “Go fast” or “Higher, higher, higher” over and over — this from a child who wouldn’t respond to any of the other things I’d said to him.

Of course, my brilliant stroke of genius to get him a play yard for his birthday didn’t change anything except the fact that I didn’t get to comment on the neighborhood homes as we walked to the park. He still said “Go fast” or “Higher” constantly, and when I say “constantly,” I do mean constantly!

I will teach him to swing for himself if it’s the last thing I do. One day he will understand the concept of “Bend your knees, straighten your legs” that I have recited to him about a billion times to no avail. I can’t wait for that day!

Or can I? Amidst all my angst and frustration about pulling him to the park, only for him not to want to go to the park, or pushing him for twenty minutes or more while he shrilled out one-word orders to me over and over and over . . . amidst all that, I have realized that we found a common ground.

I don’t know if William will ever go to a game with me, or if I’ll ever be able to take him for his first haircut, or if I’ll ever build a model with him. But we found something to do together. We have our thing. It might not be fun all the time; in fact, sometimes it gets really tiresome, but you know, it’s our thing. When the day comes that he learns to move his legs back and forth and doesn’t need his daddy to make him go fast or go higher, it’ll be a bittersweet moment for sure.

~Seth Fowler

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