Archive for the ‘Paul Collins’ Tag
I recently read a short article in Cookie magazine by Paul Collins, the father of an autistic child. The point of the article was to help parents know what to expect when inviting an autistic child to a birthday party. The article was honest and insightful. At one point Collins made a brilliant statement about his life with his son: “We’re a family,” he said. “Not a tragedy.”
My thoughts went immediately to my older brother, Ryan, and his family. Now, Ryan was smart when deciding who to marry. He just waited for me to find Stephanie, my best friend and college roommate, and then stepped in and proposed. Now they are the parents of four beautiful children: two boys and two girls, each full of personality, each boasting beautiful hair (which I can’t deny I covet) and gorgeous, turn the world upside down smiles. Their two boys, Nathan and Aaron, are also severely challenged with developmental delays that no amount of genetic testing has been able to diagnose. Nathan, at 10, has some characteristics that place him on the autism spectrum, but that doesn’t explain the motor skill delays that prevent him from feeding or dressing himself.
I can’t imagine how difficult day to day life must be for Ryan and Stephanie. For their whole family, really. I know that when we get a chance to visit, our children love the time spent playing together. And I know that Nathan and Aaron’s situations are confusing and somewhat distressing to my four kids. After a trip to see them, I hear questions like these: “Why can’t Nathan talk?”, “Would Nathan play legos with me if he could?” and “Why is Aaron still a baby?”
But this is the thing. I’ve watched my eight year old help Nathan with a puzzle. I’ve watched my six year old lay on the floor next to Aaron and try to make him laugh. My four year old will take Nathan by the hand, and my two year old gives his cousins hugs and kisses. My kids love to see their cousins and spend time with them. They are able to overcome their questions and concerns because when we are at Ryan and Stephanie’s house it is clear to all of us that there are not two healthy children and two sick children. There are four much-loved, happy children.
Ryan and Stephanie don’t differentiate between their kids. They love and cherish each one. No one in their home is defined by what he or she cannot do. I have learned so much from them. So much about love and nurturing, patience and acceptance, and also about having fun. Ryan and Stephanie, their daughters Kara and Rachel, and Nathan and Aaron with their beautiful smiles, their unique, playful, and endearing personalities, illuminate Collins’ statement. The difficulties Ryan and Stephanie may face from day to day do not make them a tragedy. Their life is beautiful. They are something to be celebrated. They are a family.