Jake was exasperated with me.
“Mom, you’re so rude and annoying!” Jake blurted.
“I am, am I?” I responded coolly, not without a little gleam in my eye.
“Your job is to help me. I can’t do this. It’s too hard,” Jake retorted.
“But, Jake,” I countered. “I am helping you. I help you all the time. I am here to help you grow in independence.”
“I don’t like that word,” Jake replied.
It’s true. Jake has no tolerance for this cursed word – independence – and all of its ramifications of personal responsibility and self-care.
The fact of the matter is that I am reminded often by my middle son that he has no interest in growing up and becoming independent – ever.
It’s during these kinds of discourses with Jake that I must work hard to repress my in-the-moment feelings. I could easily let out a huge guffaw, release a snort, chortle or two or collapse in laughter. Because what I often ask Jake to do is not that big a deal in my mind. I can’t help but find some of these situations humorous. Thank goodness!!!
To Jake though? I’m asking him to move a mountain – again!
Gratefully, I don’t become angry or lose my patience. Well, most of the time.
However, these are the moments with Jake when I most need to hold myself together.
Jake was unhappy with me.
Although I was by his side, demonstrating what to do, encouraging him, and offering a bit of assistance, none of that was good enough for Jake.
“Mom,” he countered again, “This is your work, not mine! I’m the kid. You’re the mom!”
Now, Jake probably would not have expressed these words in hearing distance of his father.
Jake knows better.
However, John is miles and miles and miles away in Zimbabwe on a 10-12-day ministry trip – far, far, far out of Jake’s unwise declarations.
I was on my own.
“Oh, really, Jake?” I answered. “This is my work??? Not anymore, Son. This is something you must learn to do all by yourself. I am here to guide you, support you, and encourage you. But, this job is yours now.”
“But Mommmmm,” Jake offered. “I’m soooo tired.” This is too hard for me.”
“Sorry, Jake. Hop to it. Or no breakfast for you this morning,” I said.
I wasn’t buying it.
You see, breakfast was already made. It was done. This was about Jake taking a knife, cutting into the coffee cake, and then serving himself.
What? You may say. Jake doesn’t know how to cut with a knife or serve himself?
Yes. Yes, he does.
However, it’s not always easy for him. It’s a skill we’ve been developing for a number of years actually – adding more and more things for him to cut into, slice apart, and carve up to develop his fine motor skills. For Jake, some skills have just taken more time and more confidence to develop.
Yet, because of this time and development factor – this delay has also contributed to Jake believing that his parents will serve him and that he can continue to be dependent upon us for the rest of his life.
It’s not going to happen.
For the entirety of Jake’s life, doing something new, going to an unfamiliar place, being introduced to a new skill, or being asked to try something different has consistently been really hard for him.
For many, many, many autistic children, their life preference is to stick with things they like to do and to experience things that bring them comfort and security. This is true for all children, and many adults, too, of course. Yet, for autistic children this tendency is veraciously undeniable.
This behavior often and inevitably leads to refusal. And in Jake’s case, he will renounce doing the new activity or learning the new skill with all of his gusto and might– again and again and again.
What’s the core issue here?
Fear of change.
Fear of failure.
Fear of pain.
Fear of the future.
Fear of not knowing what he will be asked to do next.
Fear of becoming more independent.
For Jake, learning new skills and developing independence means that he is growing up – and Jake will tell you – he has no interest in growing up. Not ever. For Jake, Peter Pan had the right idea. Growing older and all of its cares, responsibilities, and worries can be for everyone else. Everyone else, but Jake.
Jake desires to remain a kid. His stated preference is to live with his parents – forever. Every time he pleads with me to keep doing something for him, he is begging for his life to remain comfortable, secure, and known.
So, the issue isn’t really slicing into a piece of cake. Jake’s ultimate beef with his mother is that he doesn’t want to grow up and that his mother isn’t going along with his personal life plan. And that is quite annoying to him.
Is Jake all that different from any of us, though?
Don’t many of us desire for our lives to remain comfortable, secure, and known – especially when we are experiencing a particularly fulfilling, meaningful, and joyous season of life?
Don’t we, too, – at some level – want this wonderful time in our lives to last forever? At least to continue on for as long as possible?
Or others of us may pine for a season long past that we can never recreate or relive again…. We’d love to do that, though, if we only could.
Of course, there are other seasons in our lives that can’t end soon enough for us – we’d love to see these difficult moments evaporate into the annals of time – so we can move on to whatever is next. And soon!
And for the majority of us, don’t we have a personal life plan that we desire to be fulfilled and seen to its fruition?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with making plans. The deal is that we must remember Who ultimately charts our life course:
In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
New International Version, Proverbs 16:9
We also must acknowledge that we have no idea what the big picture that our Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, our God Almighty is seeing when He views our teeny-tiny selves and our teeny-tiny plans in relation to all that He has created for us in His Kingdom to come.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
New International Version, Isaiah 55: 8,9
Now, Jake would probably think this very annoying! Yet, just as Jake must trust me to help him develop life skills for not only his present, but future life, I believe we need to trust our Heavenly Father as well. We can trust Him to guide us, encourage us, and help us in our lives in the here and now and in the age to come.
Our Lord has a good, good, good plan. For Jake. For you. For me.
And just like Jake, our Heavenly Father is asking us to release our comforts, our securities, our plans, and our future hopes and dreams into His hands. He will help us grow and develop in the fruitful, life-sustaining ways of the Spirit. He’s not being rude or annoying – especially when He leads us in a direction we weren’t prepared to go – like Jake often feels when his mother asks him to try a new skill.
No, He is being a good, good Father.
He is providing His strength, His guidance, and His help as He establishes each of our blessed, life-affirming steps towards eternity – the eternal life that most matters – for Jake and for us all.