Wow. Just musing on the title of this column makes me feel like crying. I’m not sure why, but I guess it has to do with the thought of my son, Parker-John, finding someone and no longer needing his old man around. On the other hand, my sadness could be related to the fact that my son is on the autism spectrum, and I worry that he’ll never be able to be in a relationship at all. He’s incredibly cute, so I can’t believe that young ladies won’t notice him. On the other hand, he’s not your average kid.
I’m going to live in the reality that, once puberty hits—autism or no autism—he will exchange the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for an interest in girls. He will suddenly want to look his best and learn how to communicate with others.
I’ll turn the rest of this piece into a direct appeal to Parker-John’s future girlfriend.
Hi. I’m Parker-John’s dad. You’ve made a good choice, young lady. First of all, once he decides he cares about you, he will be incredibly loyal and caring. He’ll try to help you when you need something. If he sees that you’re sad, he’ll try to find out what’s wrong and do what he can to make you feel better. On the other hand, I feel like I should tell you that, because he’s on the autism spectrum, he may sometimes become very focused on something other than you. He’s not doing it for the usual “guy” reasons, such as being self-involved, being “too cool” to acknowledge you, or trying to impress his friends by acting like a creep.
Parker-John will get obsessed by something because that’s the way he is. If you want to get him back into “your” world, just talk to him. Get him to look you in the eye. Tell him that he’s hurting your feelings. I promise you; he’s so sweet and caring that he immediately will try to make things right. In fact, he may start crying. Don’t worry about it. He just feels bad about making you feel bad. And while I can understand that his crying may freak you out, just remember that he’s doing it because he cares so much about you. And don’t you want a guy who cares?
Another thing you should know about Parker-John is that he has trouble expressing his feelings. Of course, as you’ve probably already figured out, most guys have that problem. I’d like to tell you it gets better as you get older, but the average guy never becomes an expert “feelings sharer.” However, with Parker-John, the situation’s a little different. Just as he isn’t ignoring you because he’s “being a guy,” he’s not withholding feelings for the usual “guy” reasons either.
Parker-John is extremely sensitive, and his feelings run deep and true. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always have the words to put with the feelings. As you spend time with him, you’ll begin to learn how to read the messages he sends. You’ll know that he loves you. You’ll know that he cares about you. And, as I said before, you can always just ask him.
And that’s the final thing I want to make sure you understand. Parker-John is brutally honest, but he never means to be brutal. For example, if you give him a present and he doesn’t like it, he may very well tell you that he doesn’t like it. Social cues aren’t his area of expertise. His mother and I are working on that with him, but Parker-John still has a tendency to tell you what he thinks about something, if you ask him about it. Just understand that he’s not making a value judgment about you. He’s answering, honestly, a question that you’ve asked him. Most of the time I think you’ll appreciate his honesty.
I hope that you and Parker-John will enjoy being together. I believe you’ll be a good influence on him. Let me know if you have any questions.