I’m sure we’ve all read the stories about how parents of children with autism have higher divorce rates than other couples. Some studies say the evidence doesn’t support it, citing that the divorce rate is roughly the same for parents with and without children on the spectrum, roughly 64-65%.
Either way, raising a child with special needs certainly puts strain on a relationship.
I feel lucky every day to have my family, especially my awesome husband. So I thought I would write a tribute to him, sort of, about how we manage to keep our marriage solid.
Declarations of Love
I know I’m loved because Husband never sends me flowers. He especially goes out of his way to not send me flowers at work, for Valentine’s Day.
Don’t misunderstand, I love flowers. Flowers are beautiful. But I don’t like having flowers sent to me because it makes me sad. They start off so pretty, with so much promise, but within a few days they are sad, wilting, drooping. The pretty fades so quickly, it’s not worth it to me. Besides, I feel bad knowing that something so beautiful was ripped out of the ground, thrown into a FedEx truck, and delivered to me, just to sit under fluorescent lights.
Husband knows me, and understands me, so he never sends flowers.
We all have those days, don’t we? Some of those days have been very, very hard. The kind of hard that makes you want to pluck out a soccer mom’s eye, ala Kill Bill, when you overhear her griping about how hard it is to chauffeur the NT kids, in the Volvo SUV, to all their after-school activities.
Sometimes, after a horrible day, I just crumple into a sobbing, snot-drenched heap. It’s those times that really test the marital relationship.
Husband will come over, and put one strong but gentle hand on my shoulder, lean down, and whisper “get the fuck up, I can’t do this shit alone.”
Because he knows this isn’t just life with the Cleavers. It’s more like a war. An Autism war. And in this war, we don’t let soldiers sit down and start fucking boo-hooing. You grab them by the shirt, drag them to their feet, and pull them along.
Because he loves me. And he loves our son.
And because our theme song is Won’t Back Down, by Tom Petty. Fuck yeah, Tom, fuck yeah.
Husband knows how much I love sleep. Sleep and I have had a love affair ever since I can remember. It’s my favorite hobby because it’s free, and I’m really, really good at it.
But then you have a kid.
A kid on the spectrum.
But husband lets me sleep in on the weekend, even though he’s really tired too. He knows that if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m an unhappy and ineffective Mommy and Wife.
Of course, he’s going to mention that he let me sleep in, several times. He wants to make sure those points get logged on the scoreboard in my head.
Don’t worry, they did.
In our house, humor is a blood sport. My friend Christine likes to say that I’m funny, with spikes.
We use our keenest faculties to search out and detect something funny, when there is seemingly nothing. When my son didn’t seem like he would ever be potty trained, we discussed starting a line of designer pull-ups, for high school and college kids. Flaming skulls was my favorite idea. Hubs thought we should have Ed Hardy signature designed pull-ups, which would, of course, cost more.
At home Hubs calls me “Jackie.” It’s not my name. Not even close. It’s code for “jackass.” And of course he’s lovingly known as “Jack.”
When he wants me to have some “me” time, and pamper myself, he tells me, “Why don’t you go get your hooves filed down and painted, I’m afraid they’ll rip the sheets when we’re sleeping.”
He loves me like that.
I can’t imagine getting through this insanity without my husband. He is not detail-oriented, nor is he good at finding and securing resources. He does not read Wright’s Law books, and he isn’t the parent that the teachers and administrators dread hearing from. He knows these are the things that I’m better at than he is.
But he is my rock. Well, more like a boulder. A big, craggy boulder. One that keeps me going while I fight, calmly reigning me in when I’m close to crossing a line I might regret, letting me get extra sleep so I can do all those extra things I do, and sending me out of the house for some alone time when the stress seeps out of my pores like sweat.
See that over there? That’s me and Jack, giving those autism divorce statistics the double-bird salute.