Autism Parenting in Three Vignettes


In St. George last week, we went to buy the boys some shoes. Charlie tried on a few pairs, vacillating between black and white checkerboard Vans and Nike high tops, finally settling on the Nikes. Done. I mean, definitely opinionated, but he liked all his options, so basically easy.

Meanwhile, Truman tried on fifteen pairs of shoes, each which he had to test by running the length of the store. If they fell off (which most of the sandals did), they were no longer contenders. He then had a low-key tantrum and said all he really wanted was shoes that light up on the bottom. So we went to another shoe store, where there were exactly two pairs of shoes with lights on the bottom, both with laces instead of velcro (he can’t tie laces), and both ugly as sin. He chose the black pair, which basically looks like an orthopedic shoe on top with an enormous white bottom lined with LED lights that can change color and blink. They are hideous, and I could not hand over my money fast enough. Even though I will be the one tying those ugly things.

Here’s the thing: My children are like me in that they know exactly what they like and what they want. Trying to talk them out of their opinions is fruitless and something I don’t recommend. Also, having opinions and knowing what you like and what you want are things I like about myself, so why would I squash this in my sons?

I gave up years ago on trying to control my kids’ fashion choices and I have never looked back. There is freedom for me, my boys, in letting you wear those trash light-up shoes!


Last night before bed, Charlie stood in our bedroom doorway and argued extensively with Jeff and me about wanting to wake up extra early.

“Can I set an alarm?” he asked.

“No,” we responded. When he sets alarms, they tend to go off at 4 AM and wake everybody up.

“I want to get up at 6:50,” he repeated.

“We will wake you up at 6:50,” we assured him.

“I don’t believe you,” he deadpanned.

“You can trust that we will wake you up early, even though it’s the first day back to school after Spring Break, and waking up early is going to be hard,” we explained.

“I don’t trust you,” he spat, at which point there was much eye-rolling and sighing (from me).

This conversation continued for a good four minutes longer than it needed to.

Jeff dutifully went to Charlie’s room and attempted to wake him at 6:50 this morning, which was impossible because Charlie was dead to the world and unwilling or able to be roused from his deep sleep.


My mom, the little boys, and I visited Jack in his new group home on Sunday. I know that I am healing, because when I saw Jack this time, I didn’t feel sad. I felt really good. Here are the pertinent points:

  • Jack is calm–the calmest I’ve seen him in several years.
  • His home is lovely and peaceful.
  • His house manager is terrific. Just perfect, actually. Jack has apparently taken a real shining to him, and he told me he already just loves Jack.
  • Jack’s neighborhood is quiet and well-kept, with beautiful natural surroundings. Everything about it felt like the right place for our special teen at this point in his life.
  • Placing one’s young teen in residential care is not a typical parenting step. But it’s my parenting experience. Yesterday, I felt a fullness of acceptance for the skiwampus path that Jack and I are traveling together. It’s different, but it’s okay.
  • When I left, that elusive metaphysical cloak of relief drifted from the sky and landed on my shoulders. It wrapped me up and I exhaled.
  • At this moment, all my worries are gone. I’m as calm as Jack. He and I are still waters, reflecting the beauty of the lives God has given us.


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