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Chelsea DeKok
ACM Photography
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Ben
Thoughts On Parenthood

There really is no single way to describe parenthood. There is certainly no manual. Even if there were it would be useless because each child is completely unique and very different. What works for one is guaranteed to not work for the other, even in the same family.

Going into parenthood and while pregnant I had preconceived ideas based upon my memories and upon observations of other parent-child teams. As soon as I held our baby and looked into his eyes (soul) I recognized the journey I was about to embark on. I saw the face of God.

We were incredibly lucky that our son Ben was diagnosed early (back then in the mid-1990’s). He was 5 and at that time few doctors and fewer parents had even heard of Asperger’s. Somehow for me it was a big relief because down deep I knew. What it was I did not know but I knew. I knew all kids are different and unique and can be stubborn BUT!!!!! To spend 2 ½ years and every waking moment discussing bean stalks I knew something was not as it should be. With the diagnosis came the cloud and the shackles and the what ifs. The docs were all doom and gloom. No one could give us answers because no one knew back then. It was through faith and patience and other parents that I learned and persevered. They were my first teachers, not the doctors.

Then!!!!!! I made a fantastic observation, Our son was my teacher. I learned about strengths and passions and letting him guide me. We no longer talked about deficits and what he could not do. We focused on what he could do. We set high expectations for him and with him. Maybe we wanted to prove to the “stupid” doctors that our son had potential. He was talented and unique. How many “normal” teens get to spend 3 weeks in Europe and 3 weeks in Washington D.C. as a Congressional Page? It was not doom and gloom. I never said it was easy. Our son has taught me so much and I am who I am now because of him. I’m involved, I’ve learned about myself, I’ve developed passions, and I have a direction. All thanks to him. I’ve even learned to laugh and to go with the flow. Ben lives in the moment. He loves life and he does not worry. Ben is proud of who he is and does not hide behind a false pretense. He is who he is and its all okay. His motto for life has always been “Different Is Good” In some way that clarity of purpose is very refreshing. He is 20 now and the future is not clear (for me) and yes I do worry more then him but down deep I do know he will be fine. With some college behind him and more college and culinary arts education coming, life will only get better.

Of course just about the time I thought I had it figured out then 11 years later along comes # 2. Alex is entirely different and I’m learning all over again about patience. Did I say PATIENCE!! Alex, although not having Autism, has his own unique health care challenges and he is an inspiration to all. He learned from the best. He learned from Ben that different is not disabled or broken, it is just different. For him, as with me, Ben is a great role model. When Alex falls he jumps up, dusts himself off, and charges off to enjoy life. He does not let a silly set of crutches and leg braces keep him from doing what other scouts are doing. He does not allow them to keep him off the trampoline or off the climbing walls. His lack of fear is strong (sometimes too strong for mom) and his bucket list is growing. But underlying the stubborn bull headedness is a very sweet unassuming child that just wants to be loved and valued like any other child.

I would never change who our boys are. People speak of curing Autism and I’m not sure I want that because to cure Autism means they are broken or not whole and their creative uniqueness (genius) would go away. Besides where else would I get killer brownies that Ben has created out of this creative genius and his wanting to be the best chef possible.

Mari and Ray, parents of Alex
Topeka, KS


Mari & Ray, parents of Alex