Autism Dad: “Cry Daddy, Part 2”

Ben has always shown a fascination with crying. I first wrote about it in “Cry Daddy”:

I can’t help but wonder why Ben is drawn to the anguished sound of a crying baby. Is he being empathetic or is he simply curious? Does he attach meaning to the tears or just hear the sound? And then there’s Ben’s threshold for pain. When he falls, he usually registers no signs of pain. Rarely are there tears – and when there are, I oddly find myself quietly celebrating, as tears indicate he is feeling something, breaking through, thawing.

This weekend the tables were turned. Instead of observing a crying child, Ben was the one doing the crying. Not a drop or two, but something of a downpour. It was sad and, for a while there, frightening for me to witness it. It happened while Ryan was throwing Ben down on the trampoline — which, admittedly, I have sanctioned and even encouraged in the past. It just seemed that wrestling with your brother is part of growing up, and I didn’t want to deny Ryan or shield Ben excessively. 

But this time Ryan went too far. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him launch Ben into the air, throwing him across the trampoline and causing Ben to smack his chin against the metal frame. Ryan felt my rage building; I picked him up and threw him into time-out.

I grabbed some tissues to stop Ben’s bleeding. His eyes were red and moist. Ben moved to the other side of the trampoline, turning away. I thought to myself, Maybe I should let him have his space. Instead, I did the opposite. I opened my arms wide:

Ben, come to Daddy.

To my surprise, he came. Standing on the trampoline, he matched my height. I hugged him, but felt I was fumbling for words. What he really needs, I thought to myself, is his mother. He needs her smell, her smile, her voice, the comfort that only she can bring. Teresa, of course, I could not deliver. So I held Ben closer and relied on instinct:

Cry to Daddy. It’s okay Benny, just cry.

The floodgates opened, at first just a crack. I could feel Ben inch closer to me and tighten his grasp. Then the tears really started to fall.

You must be so scared, Benny. Cry to Daddy.

It was maybe the third time I’d seen him cry in his 7-1/2 years, but never like this. And never in my arms.

I wiped each and every tear and kissed Ben’s sad, scared face. Minutes later, he was again soaring through the air, as if the whole episode had never happened. That’s the way Ben’s autistic mind works. He moves freely moment to moment, and doesn’t hold on to memories for very long.

Me on the other hand? I will be holding on to this memory–this rare emotional connection with Ben–for a lifetime.

Next my attention turned to Ryan. I released him from time-out with a stern but supportive lecture.

I know you didn’t mean to hurt your brother. But this must never happen again.

I don’t normally yell at my boys, and I was worried that my anger would push Ryan away, or that he would respond with a feeling-sorry-for-himself crying fit. Instead, Ryan apologized to his older brother and gave him a hug. And best of all, he stopped pushing Ben around. The rage that Ryan brought out in me quickly turned to respect:

Ryan, back off Ben. But hey you can push me around all you want.

Soon after I felt a left jab to my stomach. Playful but painful 🙂

Over the next years, I will need to endure many jabs and blows. It’s not Ryan’s I’m concerned about, but rather, the blows delivered by our fellow “human beings,” like the old man who yelled at Ben in a restaurant this weekend, because he didn’t like the way Ben was looking at him. Those are small jabs, ugly and obnoxious but tolerable.

As long as I can avoid the knock-out punch, I’ll be okay.


Read Cry Daddy, Part 1:

Autism Dad on FB:


This entry was posted in August 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Autism Dad: “Cry Daddy, Part 2”

  1. Grace says:

    This was a beautiful story. In my humble opinion, you handled it just as well as any mother could. You did good, AD, and so did Ben.

    I can’t get past the old man in the restaurant. Gah!! If Ben was staring at him, would it have been so difficult to maybe wave to him or say hello to him instead of yelling?? I don’t know, I wasn’t there to be privy to the details, but miserable people like that really bug me, especially when it comes to our kids. (Sorry to rant, but it’s just wrong.)

  2. carla says:

    Awesome , Dad!!! thanks for sharing this and keep on being the great Dad you are!! sincerely, carla j altland

  3. Autism Dad says:

    Hey Grace!! Great to hear from you, and thanks for the nice feedback. Lately Ben has been contorting his face a bit, a nervous thing which can result in a facial expression that is not mean at all, but not pleasant either….just shows that he has some issues. Maybe the old man was reacting to that. Fine, but don’t go up to my son and start yelling at him. Talk to me.

    P.S. Were you apologizing for doing a rant? I thought that’s what your “brand” was all about!! 🙂

  4. zoft says:

    Great story and writing style.
    I would be quite amusing to teach Ben the middle finger. A sign of shortcomings is the will to always blame others, like this grumpy guy.

    • Autism Dad says:

      Thanks for your note. Couldn’t agree more. The old man probably thought Ben was staring at him in a way that was disrespecting or ridiculing him. Maybe one day Ben will learn the middle finger and use it to “communicate”–so long as he doesn’t turn it against me 🙂

  5. Angela Bradford says:

    I always feel a sense of helplessness when my children are suffering; and it is heightened even more when they are bleeding. It’s almost as if holding them, rocking them and lulling them with a soothing voice of complete devotion and empathy helps us “absorb” the pain and fear out of them and into us until it all just dissipates. You seem to have this skill down pretty well, Adam.

    Oh, and I totally get the Ryan: rage, time-out, stern, supportive, you can’t do this but you can do that method. Great job, Autism Dad! Keep up the good work:)

    • Autism Dad says:

      Hey Angela — Wow, what a great letter. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share a comment. I don’t know if I have this skill down; in fact, I feel I was being tested (thankfully there haven’t been a lot of these bleeding episodes), but everything turned out all right. Thanks for your awesome comment and your support. Hope to hear from you again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s