Yesterday was our silver anniversary, marking 25 years of marriage. And I was thinking all day that if I'd somehow been able to see the future, and needed to pick out a husband specifically to be my partner in parenting Janey, I couldn't have picked a better man than Tony.
You don't hear nearly as much about autism fathers as autism mothers. But I'm pretty sure Tony's not the only fantastic autism father out there (in fact, I know for a fact he isn't---here's a shout-out to you, Dan!) Tony is Janey's rock star. I'm okay in her eyes, but Tony is her hero. When he gets home from work, I see a smile that I just don't see any other time. Daddy takes her for car rides, dances with her, cooks her favorite foods, makes silly voices for her, delights in funny things she says---Daddy is the sunshine of her life.
Almost every afternoon when Tony walks through the door, I say "Thank you for coming home". He often jokingly replies "As if I have a choice!" But he does have a choice. I know that some fathers, faced with the challenges Janey brings (or the more typical challenges that William and Freddy brought) would not come home---would decide that it was all a little more than he bargained for. And I won't say what I hate to hear---that I don't know how single mothers do it. I know how they do it. I know you do what you have to do. But I will say I can imagine how incredibly tougher my life would be doing this on my own.
I've read that the toughest years on a marriage when parenting a child like Janey are the early years, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Most people understand that parenting children in the early years is a very intense thing. But most people also know that it gets easier, that eventually there will come a day when the children don't need to be cared for 24/7, when the children have lives of their own. That day will not come for Tony and me, or for so many families like ours. We will take care of Janey for the rest of our lives. I am not saying this to try to say what a burden it is, how unfair it is, any of that. It is just how it is. But I don't think many people would argue when I say that does put a strain on a marriage.
However, I think in many ways Janey has given us a stronger marriage. We need each other. We need each other desperately. When Tony gets home, I am thrilled---each and every day. I am thrilled not always for the reasons you might think of when reading romance novels---I am thrilled because I know I will get a little break, that I can sit and read for a bit. When we do get a little bit of time alone together, we treasure it. Yesterday, we had a wonderful day while Janey was at school. We watched some TV, we went out to lunch, we talked and laughed and reflected on the past 25 years. I am sure many people do more exotic things for their silver anniversary. They might take a cruise, or have a huge party, or buy each other big gifts. But I think we had just as much fun.
I'm not going to say it's all been sunshine and roses. There have been times when the stresses of our lives certainly brought out the worst in both of us. There have been bickering middle of the night fights over who slept less, there have been times that we lashed out at each other because we had run out of patience a few toileting disasters ago, there have been arguments over nit-picky things we felt the other wasn't handling correctly. But in looking back, those moments fade behind the good moments, the moments we together watched Janey do something that amazed us, the times we quoted Janey's latest video obsession and both of us got the reference and we laughed until we cried, the amazing moments when all three kids were together and happy and we couldn't believe we've created the family we have.
To all the fathers out there, indeed, to all the married couples out there living this uniquely challenging life----we raise a cup of coffee in a virtual toast to you. And to Tony, Happy Anniversary. I love you.