In the iconic film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", Sidney Poitier's father angrily tells his son who plans to marry a white girl without his parents' permission that he owes him. Sidney's retort goes something like this: "You brought me into this world and you owe me everything that you have." Those aren't his exact words, but the message is clear. Parents are responsible to give more than a lifetime of love and acceptance to their children. They owe emotional support and resources, both physical and financial. They owe time. All parents know this, but how many are this giving after giving birth?
The answer? Parents of ALL children, not just parents of special children are this giving. We all buy the obligatory items to help our children succeed. Parents of ALL children drive their children to myriad events, cheering them on when they win or lose. All of us protect our offspring and would do anything to ensure their safety, even lie or steal a loaf of bread or send our children across unprotected borders for a better life. We advocate for them every minute of the day without realizing it. Isn't that why we work?
Today is Sunday. I took my special son for a haircut and sat with him, while he blew each falling snip of hair off the cape. I watched as the hairdresser tried to artfully cut the hair of this moving target. "Greg, sit still," I warned him again and again. Samantha, our quite skilled beautician, and I laughed. Clearly nothing I said encouraged Greg to stop this obsession.
Next I took Greg bowling. We high-fived each other after each roll of the ball. If I forgot, Greg extended his hand automatically, even when he didn't get a strike or spare. We shared a soda and enjoyed the good time.
Nothing that waited at home mattered more than this. Not the papers to grade, not the housework to do. Not the dinner to prepare or the laundry to wash. But I'm not unique.
Next to us was another family with a special grown-up child. This family had also given up a Sunday of television or housework or relaxation to entertain their son. Two families shared a moment today. Neither family mentioned how unusual it was to be right next to each other with our autistic sons. We didn't talk about the challenges or the inordinate amount of time devoted to our children. We didn't even acknowledge how unusual it was to be next to each other at that moment in time. Instead we cheered the strikes and other successes experienced by our children. In fact, the entire bowling alley resonated with the sounds of families and friends sharing in the pleasures of being together.
It's what parents do. All parents.