Carrot or stick, guys?

The blogger who goes by Autism Daddy has a great post up, “A Letter To The Dads That Left Because Of Autism & The Ones That Are Thinking Of Leaving… (from a dad who stayed)”.

IMG_20140531_113657_788He takes a stick to dads who bail on wives and kids because of the challenges of care giving…

Let’s get something out of the way right out of the gate. Let’s admit it. Let’s call a spade a spade You were a jerk already, before the autism, right? You probably would’ve left for some other reason. It was already in your DNA to be a loser, right?

There’s a real need for sticks today, I’m afraid. Too many guys are raised without strong male role modeling, and the culture is conflicted about just what makes for a good man in the first place. Lots of mixed messages, negative messages, and incentives to stay a boy; what Dan Kiley called “The Peter Pan Syndrome.”

So there’s a need for strong voices, kicks-in-the-butt and sticks to “guide” dads in the right direction as care givers. (That’s the direction toward the need, not out the door.)

It is a challenge, for sure. I once went to a spiritual mentor and confessor because I was having graphic sex dreams every night. “Look, I’m not trying to stir this up,” I complained. “I’m not watching porn. I have a great time with my wife. So what’s the deal?”

“Escape,” he shrugged. “You’re feeling overwhelmed and your mind is trying to go some place fun.”

So I get the desire to run. It’s an “animal” instinct in difficult situations like care giving. We are, in some ways, wired to at least consider running away. And sometimes we need a stick to keep us from doing that.

But some of us, maybe most of us, respond to carrots. Praise from the wife, encouragement from friends and family, breakthroughs or just plain pleasant moments with those in our care – these things keep us close and keep us coming back when we feel tempted to run.

In my case, faith provides bunches of carrots. As a Christian, I seek to stay on a path that includes hardship as a means to spiritual growth and joy. Here’s a prayer from the tradition in which I live out my faith,

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

With Joey’s autism, I’ve been pushed beyond what’s pleasant into what’s really loving,

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13)

I am a more mature man, a fuller person, and a more sincere Christian for having been a care giver. The God in whom I trust has planted plenty of carrots along the path I walk.

May you find a bunch of ’em, too.

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