Many people find inspiration from their elders and what they have accomplished against all odds. While I too have my share of older role models most of my inspiration comes from my son. He is 9 years old and is currently in fourth grade.
Seven years ago my wife and I went through the adoption process. It was a three month class through a non-profit to prepare us for adoption. In this class we learned about adoption laws, foster care options and we gave the organization an opportunity to screen us thoroughly. They dove into our past relationships, our relationships with our families, our jobs, our personalities, fears, our home, who we have in said home, and more. It was a necessary intrusive process for the protection of their little ones.
One of the forms the organization had us fill out went through all of the possible types of kids that we would be willing to take in. We had to really put some thought into this because there were kids in our family already so we needed to make sure that our child would be safe as well as the other kids…that it would be a smooth transition for everyone. Not too long after we finished the class and were cleared to adopt, we got a phone call about a little boy in need of a family. The worker explained that we did not check off that we would be willing to accept a child with autism but she wanted to talk to us about him anyway. Without a second thought we told her that we would love to meet him. She set up the meeting and within days we were anxiously waiting his arrival in a small play room set up for visitations and meetings.
I can’t explain the intense feeling. I imagine it’s similar to the feeling of an expecting father in the delivery room waiting for the baby to pop out! Instantly, I fell in love with the curly red-headed little boy that walked in. He seemed oblivious to us and wanted to get into everything…climbing on tables, playing with toys at eye level, then going back to climbing on tables. The worker and his current foster mom explained that he was very active and refused to listen, hold hands, self-feed, or potty. The foster mom explained that as difficult as it was for her, she just physically could not handle him. After a while, he settled with a bottle onto the couch where my wife was sitting and he played with her fingers. I could see the connection between them!
After meeting him we met with the worker who asked us what we thought. We both said, “Yes, we want to be his family!” She went on to explain that he would never show us affection, never hold our hand, never look for us or connect with us. I was kind of shocked because it was almost like she was discouraging us from adopting him. She asked us to think about it for a couple of days and after a couple of days we called her back and told her the same thing…”Yes!”
It was a rough beginning. He did not want to share, eat on his own, or even acknowledge our attempts at interactions. He threw tantrums and squealed a high pitch squeal at anything from parallel parking the car to having to leave a place he liked like Chuck E. Cheese or the park. He didn’t say anything except “ready, set, go,” and even that was in a very cryptic form.
We met with birth to three and the daycare team, who laid out his plan of action. They said his first goals were for him to say three words, sign 10 words, and play alongside another kid for five minutes. I remember thinking, “Oh my God…10 words? actually say three words? He has a lot of work to do…” We totally believed in him…All of us, the whole team came together and pushed him to be uncomfortable and helped him through his squealing fits until he started learning and being brave and trying new things.
He started flourishing and reached every goal that was put in front of him. My son was feeding himself, trying new textured foods, playing with the other kids, and going potty!
Today, he is in fourth grade and excelling academically. He is a top reader and writes like a pro! My son has pushed himself to try new things and new situations, even if people laugh at him or even if he fails at first. He is my inspiration because he is independent. He grooms himself and helps around the house, makes himself food, helps take care of the dog and yes…he tells me he loves me, holds my hand, cuddles with me and gives me so many hugs and kisses. My boy pushes me to be brave, to put myself in uncomfortable situations in the name of growth and progress.