In the US, 1 in 20 school-aged children are estimated to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).¹ FASDs are caused by prenatal alcohol...
It Can’t Just Be Me
Me: “Will you please go downstairs and turn off the lights you left on in the bathroom, your room, and the den?!”
My Son: “Why? Maybe later.”
Me: “Well then let me rephrase it. If you don’t turn off the lights now, you’ll lose your device for the day! It’s not like I haven’t asked you to turn them off hundreds of times before. If you would do it in the first place I wouldn’t have to ask you!”
Welcome to an exchange between me and my son, more times than I’d care to admit, in telling him what I want him to do. Why this particular exchange? Honestly, to save on the electricity bill. Why in this tone? Because of how frequently this conversation happens. More on this later.
Can I get an Amen?!
On the night of my wedding, my brother advised me to, “not sweat the small stuff” in my marriage. Of course, my brother wasn’t married at the time and that was over 20 years ago. Recently, I’ve heard this said multiple times in various conversations or digital platforms. This can’t be a coincidence, right? I’ve also heard it said in the following way, “what hill are you willing to die on?” I can tell you this, when I hear these phrases being used it’s easy to receive, but not so easy to act upon. Especially, in the heat of the moment. Can I get an Amen?!
I am a father who did, self-admittedly, a solid job of raising my children when they were infants, toddlers, and even somewhat into middle childhood. But, it was right about that time when middle school entered the picture that I started to become more of a parental tyrant. My biggest crusade has been to make sure the house is in order, but this has come with a price as it relates to the relationships I’ve had with my children.
If you know middle-schoolers, this is about the time when they can become a BIT of a challenge in several ways, at least for me. It’s a particular attitude that they bring to the table that can press all of my buttons, including the ones I didn’t even know I had.
I am a father who did, self-admittedly, a solid job of raising my children when they were infants, toddlers, and even somewhat into middle childhood.
But, it was right about that time when middle school entered the picture that I started to become more of a parental tyrant.
Can I get a Hallelujah?!
My oldest son is on the FASD spectrum. I’ve put in hundreds of hours educating myself on FASD, after getting a diagnosis, and I can tell you several reasons why a child on the spectrum acts the way they do, and I can give you several ways how to properly respond. Here’s the challenge though, walking the walk is much easier than talking the talk. Can I get a Hallelujah?!
To my credit, I’ve made some positive strides in parenting my son. Besides the consistency of my mindfulness practice, both he and I see therapists, and his therapist recently reported that he currently feels better about our relationship. Yes sir! I’d like to think it’s because I’m learning how to control ‘me’ rather than being so focused and frustrated on controlling my son. Don’t get me wrong. I won’t let my son walk all over me, but there comes a time when I need to understand the importance of maintaining a loving relationship with him that will last for the rest of our lives. Nitpicking him in so many ways is not creating that road I want us to travel together.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t let my son walk all over me, but there comes a time when I need to understand the importance of maintaining a loving relationship with him that will last for the rest of our lives.
But, It’s Up to Me
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned with FASD is that my son’s actions are due to trauma to the brain, not an intentional act of defiance. But many times, that’s the way I take it, like a personal attack on my leadership. Honestly, in our family of five my son probably has the most tender heart of us all. The last thing he wants to do is hurt me or any other member of our family, we’ll maybe his younger brother just a little- just kidding).
When he doesn’t turn off the lights it’s not to annoy me, but that’s the way I take it. Instead, it’s up to me how I control my tone when I speak to him, and it’s up to me to come up with an idea that might work out better for him to turn them off more frequently than he does, including brainstorming together. To his credit, it’s not just me having to do all the legwork. As he is getting older, he is playing more of a central role in figuring out ways to be at his best in our family dynamic.
Now, I’m not saying I’ve made it to the mountaintop yet as it relates to being a dad. Matter of fact, I still could be in base camp. But I can honestly say I’m taking steps in the right direction because my son is well worth it.
About the Author
This article was written by a father of four beautiful children, three of whom have been adopted. He is committed to sharing the experiences of his family impacted by FASD, anonymously, through the Becoming FASD Aware blog series to strengthen families and build awareness.
This photo was taken by the author’s son. while they were on a walk together.
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