The Uncle

Last night was date night. It has been a while since we had been out to see a movie. We watched The Accountant.

I related to many things in the movie in so many different ways. I found myself wishing I could have been more like the father in the movie, and helped my three sons more than I actually did to prepare them for their futures. I came to some realizations while watching the movie that I can’t stop thinking about.

My oldest son was diagnosed at the age of 10 with Asperger’s Syndrome.  I had no clue what Asperger’s Syndrome was.  There is still so much I don’t know about it.  One thing I am learning is that there are helpful tools out there for people with Asperger’s Syndrome.  For that matter, there are helpful tools out there for everyone, not just people with Asperger’s.

During the first two years of my sons life, I didn’t recognize anything different about him. When things that could have been considered different or “not normal behavior for a juvenile” were exhibited by my son, I didn’t recognize them.  He was my first child.  I loved him unconditionally,  and anything he did at that time seemed completely normal to me.

His second year he hit people a lot. He would slap at me with his chubby little fist. I thought it was cute-just a phase he was going through. Once, we were at a family dinner at my ex wife’s Uncle’s house in Utah. He was a well known Child Psychologist at the time and in great demand. He walked up to my toddler and said, “Hello”.  My son hit him on his thigh and turned around to walk away. The Uncle said, “Watch this”, and immediately picked up my son, sat him on his lap, wrapped his legs around my sons legs and engulfed him in a firm bear hug. My son immediately freaked out and started screaming and struggling.

While he was doing this the Uncle was speaking to him calmly, telling him that in his house hitting was not allowed. He did it in a calm, soothing voice, keeping a firm grip on my son’s little body so he couldn’t move. Then, he told him this: “As soon as you are quiet, I will let you go, but you can’t hit me or anyone else in my home ever again.”

My son immediately became calm, still, and silent.  He waited to see if the Uncle would do what he said.  I couldn’t believe he could even hear what the Uncle had said because he was screaming so loudly.

As soon as he was released, my enraged two year old turned around and hit the Uncle in his thigh as hard as his pudgy little fist would fly. Immediately, the Uncle repeated what he had just done, but at the end of it he wouldn’t let my son go until he had agreed to not hit anyone in his home again. He never did.
At our home he did it twice more, then never again, as I copied what the Uncle taught everyone.

The Uncle had explained to me the importance of consistency-especially for young children, and the importance of remaining calm and relaxed in my intonation when speaking to my son. It makes sense to have boundaries, be black and white and predictable.  Doing these things are easy while they are little and impressionable and malleable and conditionable.  When they are older, bigger, stronger, and have a mind and beliefs of their own, they will be set in their ways and it will be much more difficult.

The Uncle had four children. He was an amazing father. I often referred to him as, The Child Whisperer”.  He has since passed away. I often think about how many other tricks he had up his sleeve in guiding and teaching children to conform to “appropriate social behavior”, and how to react to other people and situations during stressful circumstances.

In the world of psychology these helpful hints and tricks are called tools.

Every single one of us is so completely different. Individuality is what makes humans truly beautiful. The other day I spoke to a woman who raised quadruplet boys. She mentioned how fascinating it had been to raise them, love them, and treat them all the same way, then to watch them all grow up to be so incredibly different.

Some “tools” work for some individuals, and others do not.

It took me years to realize and believe that “different” isn’t the same as “odd” or “weird”.  The word “normal” is dangerous.  What is normal?  I like the way my fiancé looks at it:  “We are all freaks in our own way.  We are all different, and that is a good thing.”

My son is different. He is brilliant. He is focused and responsible and dependable. He is special. He is strong. He is adaptable. He is a survivor. He amazes me and has achieved so much more than I ever thought possible. I am truly proud of him. 

There are some social behaviors that are helpful to recognize and practice.  Not being able to conform in some ways in today’s society will land you in jail.

I’ve come to realize that there are countless tools to help any individual function at their best in any given situation.The more we know of these tools, the more we can use them to help ourselves and to raise our children to become high-functioning, contributing, successful members of society.

We will be going over some of the more helpful tools that can help us to become our best selves and help us to help our loved ones do the same. When we make changes for the better in ourselves and consistently strive to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be, things will change for the better!  Our thoughts and our very way of thinking will change. Our words will change and our actions will change. By starting with our thoughts, we can literally change our lives.

When we change for the better, others will benefit by default.

I remember a few years ago I cut sugars out of my diet almost completely. I lost weight, was able to start working out again, became more healthy and felt better than I had in years.  As an unintended Bi product, my children saw the positive change in my mood and body and health and desired the same for themselves.

They started coming to the gym with me, changed their own eating habits, and made some positive changes for themselves!

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