There is something in this line that captures the death of all of it as I experience it. It’s the simultaneous awareness that what is needed is technically doable, and that I’m not willing to do it. If only I were still able to believe that what other people need is something I could deliver without dying! If I could still have that certainty about myself being a basically good person! But no, I now know too many true things about myself. That’s what sucks so much about Parenting. That’s the death part. The death of ideas about myself that I’d never even known were just ideas. The fact that every time I think back to every movie I’ve ever seen with the absent father, or every time I hear someone describe how such and such kid’s dad is out of their life – that this weird type of guy who I couldn’t imagine existing (who does that?!?), the guy whose story never really gets told on the show (he shows up on a motorcycle, which, I’d fucking have if I didn’t sell it for an engagement ring), the dude who doesn’t really try to win the kids over when they are like “why dad, why are you such a dick?” he’s just like, “eh, kids, eh, I do actually care about you, and maybe you’ll understand that some day.” He means Maybe they’ll understand it when they realize they are shitty people too after they have kids. Anyway, the death is realizing that guy is the one I look up to, the one who is like me but less passive and stupid and less afraid of taking proper action for himself. That the happy ending to all of these movies is the one that follows that character, which we don’t see. The one where he’s drinking a beer and reading fucking philosophy in his ‘lonely’ apartment while the credits roll, thinking “that kinda sucked today letting down the kids again, and this book is rather great.”
I had a breakdown in like my top 5 breakdowns in the past couple years this morning just trying to get my Autistic kid into the minivan for the 45 minute drive to the Autistic kid school while the twin sister was trying to tell me something very uninteresting about shit I don’t care about and don’t want to ever care about and don’t think I can mentally handle knowing that some people, even 4-almost-5-year-olds care about*, and I just set twin A down and walked over to the wall and put my forehead into it and like, wanted to smash my face into it, but I know that would be misunderstood and would cause fear, which I really don’t want at all. Then I screamed something like “This fucking life” and spread my arms up on the wall like spread eagle. Then my wife sprung into action as she’s energized by when I yell at walls, which I resent in her, since I can’t ever get what I want by asking, I have to act like her Italian family. She responds really well to the kind of shit that makes me curl up in a ball. Total number of times I’ve heard my parents yell: zero. Argue: one half of a time, maybe. Be frustrated with one another while the other wasn’t present and say something to me about it, twice. I think that’s my biggest problem, is my parents literally had what I see as a perfect marriage. Fucking Perfect. They were perfect parents. Totally unconditionally loving, with zero smothering. But it must have all been a weird mormon Facade, right? I figured it would sour somehow, but when I left the Mormon church it was like, one argument till 2 in the morning with my dad (and only when I told them I was moving in with my girlfriend), which ended a little tense and then, goodnight, we have a handball court at 7am, see you in 5 hours. A decade+ later and 5 of 8 kids are out of the church and we all still get along wonderfully, mostly via our family Slack group. Meanwhile, for my wife, she thought her parents were the worst, totally dysfunctional, violent, etc. But now she always tells me she feels like a total fool for thinking they were so bad, because she feels she is so much worse. She feels really foolish for the things she wrote during grad school in a creative writing program, she told me yesterday. The things you hear yourself say to your kids, it’s fucking mindblowing. What’s especially mindblowing is that you totally mean them. You apologize to your kids for yelling and you say everyone makes mistakes, see, I made a big mistake and yelled something mean when I was feeling angry. “Yeah daddy, you had a problem, a big problem.” Yeah I did, and the problem was, I accidentally said what I think, which I’m prone to doing when angry.
But I think two things are important for folks considering kids:
My wife and I are a totally challenging match for one another in some really surprising ways. I have been divorced before, but that wasn’t because we didn’t get along. It was just because I suddenly didn’t have it in me continue along a road toward slow suicide with a struggling anorexic aspie though I still loved her (57 lbs and five foot 4 when I left, and in and out of the hospital constantly, and it was sort of like “I can’t watch you die anymore”). So that was like giving up on a child really. Something I’m basically good at, I know. But no one in my life has ever baffled me like my current wife. I really do love her, and care about her. But I can’t stand who she wants me to be and she can’t stand who I am. I’m like, not going to ever be what she needs at all, and I can’t relate to what she needs from me. What she wants from me is shocking to me, considering how nontraditional I thought she was when we met. The vestigial assumptions of growing up conservative Mormon: I figured if you’re pro gay marriage and have premarital sex you must be liberally minded. My 5 sisters and mom were all not like her, nor was my ex wife. Possibly every one in that list was on the autistic spectrum though, or at least somewhat non-feminine. My wife is an Italian woman who reacts to most scenes in the Sopranos with “see, do you get it now?” like, do you now understand the superior way of living that is here represented?
I kind of think having an autistic kid is one of the hardest possible things, at least for the age 2-5 range. We shall see moving forward. He’s just a violent little ball of fire who will absolutely die to do what he wants in any moment, and will kill you if he has to for those purposes. It’s not manipulation, it’s like, 1/0 decision making. It’s power and force and the strength of committal. He steps off the cliff and you get to decide whether to break the fall with your body; and that’s your only choice as a parent when he does that. Break fall or no?
But between the two things, I think a functional couple with an autistic kid is going to fare better than a dysfunctional couple with neurotypical kids.
I would advise against wishing for twins in general though. And I would recommend you spend much more energy on the partnership question (who, when, why you are marrying or otherwise making a family with and for how long) than whether/when to have kids. My wife and I have had maids and nannies and house managers and shit tons of help, but it can’t overcome our central issues.
*edit to add: my 4-almost-5-year-old girl was pestering me about how I stayed up too late because she came out from her room at 9:30 pm and I was still up. At 8 am the first thing she says is “dad did you stay up all night??” and for the next thirty minutes she’d told me like 10 times about how I needed to get more sleep and take care of my body or I’d be tired. It’s insulting to my take on the human condition for something like that to matter. and it’s doubly insulting to know that it can’t possibly be true in her mind that it’s worth being exhausted to write, which is what I did till 2:30 am or so. I think this is N/S conflict and its the same type of conflict between my wife and I. Both of us seeing each other’s view of the world as not surprising but insulting to what we feel it means to be human. I want my little girl doing more meaningful stuff with her brain. Meanwhile, check in on the autistic boy at 1 am and he’s as likely to be staring at the ceiling, grinning, as anything else. I get that kid, he’s comprehensible. But still overwhelming.