As I buckled my seat belt across my shoulders and lap, I whispered to John, “Sometimes, I think we almost need some kind of extra combat pay to be parents.”
Sometimes we soldier through situations that are emotionally difficult, mentally taxing, even a bit physically exhausting, but so very necessary for the long-term good and benefit of our children, don’t we?
Yesterday, John and I, along with Caleb in tow, had one of these moments with Jake.
For the past three months, Caleb and Jake have been taking medication for their troublesome acne.
Three months ago, our doctor recommended that both boys take Accutane, an orally administered medicine that helps treat, reduce and eliminate the effects of severe acne. In order to prescribe Accutane, though, our doctor would have to draw blood to determine whether the drug would be safe for them.
And there was the rub.
Jake did not want to have his blood drawn. The more this blood-drawing procedure was discussed, the more anxious Jake became. He wanted nothing to do with it – and said so, again and again and again. As a result, our doctor showed mercy. She decided to prescribe Tetracycline to Jake – all the while believing the Tetracycline wouldn’t make much of a difference. She cautioned me. She said that in three-months time, Jake would probably need to take Accutane.
Caleb, however, was one determined kid to be free of his acne problem. He allowed our doctor to take his blood and was eventually given the green light to take Accutane.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Jake, Caleb, John and I entered our doctor’s office for a follow-up appointment to evaluate the boys’ skin. She was visibly surprised to see John with us.
In response to her look of astonishment, I replied, “Reinforcements.”
As she examined Caleb, she was delighted with his skin’s progress. Caleb’s skin had improved dramatically. She assured us that it wouldn’t be long now until his medicinal course is finished. Caleb beamed with joy.
Jake’s skin was an altogether different discussion point.
Although there were signs of improvement, Jake’s acne remained.
Our doctor confirmed that she should prescribe Accutane for Jake – now. John and I agreed.
Not so much.
He didn’t want any needle – large or small – coming anywhere near his arm.
He said, “My skin isn’t that bad. I’m okay, Mom.”
To spare you the ‘joys of this moment,’ suffice it to say, John and I did some extra-hefty-parental-lifting to help Jake finally make the decision to allow the doctor to draw blood from his arm.
Did you notice what I just wrote?
Jake, himself, finally made the decision to allow the doctor to draw his blood. He agreed that he wanted to have his skin be free of acne and saw that Caleb’s skin was much better than his own.
This is a big deal.
Jake’s anxiety and fears could have paralyzed him.
Jake’s anxiety and fears could have escalated beyond John’s and my reach.
Jake’s anxiety and fears could have overwhelmed him so much so that we would have been forced to leave the doctor’s office and make an attempt another day.
In addition, as an autistic young person, Jake could have allowed his rigid, unrelenting behavior to stymie any forward movement as well.
But the rigid characteristics of autism and the paralysis, the escalation, and the overwhelming deluge of anxiety did not materialize yesterday.
Instead, Jake sat at the table, with me holding his hand, and his eyes directed forward at his dad – like I said, “Reinforcements.” And then he tentatively , but willingly offered his arm for a blood draw.
Jake winced and cried at the needle prick.
But, the blood draw was over in a flash.
Jake did it.
John and I both breathed sighs of relief and joy.
Jake faced his fears, fought down his rising anxiety, and chose the path which would lead to his improved skin health.
As we prepared to go, Jake looked over at his dad and said, “When we get home, I need to talk to you, three.”
Jake wanted to talk?
This was a new development for us. I honestly cannot remember a time when Jake initiated a ‘family-talk-time.” His brothers had. Certainly, John and I have convened many, many, many family debrief opportunities in the past.
When John, Caleb, Jake, and I sat together in our lounge (living room to our US friends), John and I wondered if Jake was going to give us a talking to – basically a shake-down against what had happened to him.
Instead, Jake asked, “Why did you guys take me to the doctor’s office?”
Followed by other questions, “Why did I have to have my blood drawn? Why couldn’t I just start taking that medicine?”
Jake was asking clarifying questions?
Jake wanted to understand what just happened to him and why?
For Jake to take this step, even after the doctor, John, and I had talked all of this through with him in the doctor’s office – three months ago, and then again today, many times – demonstrated the fact that Jake hadn’t really heard us – his nerves, his fears, his anxiety, maybe even his autism had prevented him from understanding us. Yet, Jake realized that he wasn’t going to delay or even avoid a blood draw this time around. It was going to happen. So, Jake relented and had his blood drawn – even as he didn’t completely understand the point of it all.
He chose to trust us and just do it.
So, here we sat. John and I were given an opportunity to explain the point of the doctor’s visit, the blood draw, and why it was important all over again.
We were able to explain why the Accutane medication was more effective and how we could see the difference in Caleb’s and Jake’s skin.
We were able to explain that sometime in the near future, Jake’s skin would be clear. God willing.
But, we were able to do something else.
We were able to talk the whole situation through with Jake and Caleb and praise them both for how they handled the situation. Jake worked past his fears and did the hard thing. Caleb showed self-control by not worrying about his brother – something Caleb has a habit of doing – as Caleb sat and observed Jake’s anxious interactions with our doctor and with us.
This all took time.
A lot of time.
From heading to the doctor, the doctor visit, the return drive, the debriefing opportunity, and then the hugs. Yes, hugs. Jake asked for hugs from both John and me – and we gave them willingly.
I share this family story because, we, parents often put in super-extra energy, super-extra thought, super-extra explanations, super-extra patience and care, super-extra love and support, and super-extra time to help our kids overcome their fears and worries and do the hard thing. We do it because it is the right, honorable, and loving thing to do. We want them to know that they can do it – by themselves – sometimes holding our hand and sometimes looking us straight in the eye.
And when they do?
It’s okay to talk more about it.
It’s okay to gain more understanding and clarification.
It’s okay to ask for our time.
Because our kids deserve this love, this care, and this attention to work through their challenges, and to gain the confidence to do it again with some new challenge in the future.
John and I may not ever get the proverbial combat pay I joked about in our vehicle, but, yesterday we got something even more. We observed our autistic son work through his fears, initiate a debriefing time, and then end up having a good day.
That’s gold. Pure gold.
We have no idea what the future holds for Jake, but what we saw and experienced yesterday gives us a measure of hope. Jake is progressing. Caleb, is too, for that matter. Both boys are learning that doing the hard, beneficial thing, doesn’t mean that they have to do it alone. John and I are there for them – cheering them on. But even more so, their Lord and Savior is with them too.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
English Standard Version, Isaiah 41:10
Jake and Caleb are receiving this strengthening help from their God – they saw it, they felt it, they experienced it.
And John and I couldn’t be prouder.
So, to all of our parent-friends, hang in there. Put the super-extra effort, super-extra time and super-extra love into your kids – and super-extra prayers as well. We may not receive any extra combat pay for our work, but that’s okay. When we see growth in our children’s maturity, understanding, character, and trust in their God – that’s the gold we seek, isn’t it?