I love writing when I have have no clue what I’m going to write about. Today is one of those days. It’s Jack’s 10th birthday and all I know is I’m going to write a birthday post but I’m not sure what to say. I guess I’ll start with my standard preface and say that if you’ve never been here, click here to see what Operation Jack is about. My son Jack is the “Jack” in Operation Jack. He was born a decade ago and he’s severely autistic, still in diapers, still barely verbal, still having meltdowns and exhibiting self-injurious behaviors on a daily basis.
I’ve been writing a lot of “woe is me” and “woe is Jack” posts lately, but I’m not going to do that today. It’s not going to do any good. And I just don’t feel like it’s necessary. While I feel like he was robbed of his first 10 years, my wife Tiffany and I have fought hard to position him well for his next 10 years. We’ve learned a lot during the eight years we’ve been in this circle and we relocated 3,000 miles from our roots in California (after a one-year accidental detour in Colorado) to place him in a great school in Pennsylvania and surround ourselves with great people in a strong, local autism community. This next decade will be a LOT better that the past one.
It’s difficult to see him struggle and suffer, but it makes us stronger and wiser and that helps us help him. He will get better. I have no doubt about that. I’ve loved what I’ve seen at his new school and I met his new teacher yesterday and feel very comfortable with her guiding him.
I look at Jack a lot and get upset about how he struggles, but I have confidence that we’re going to pull him out of this. He was given to us for a reason and I’m going to work harder to really embrace that this year. Life is full of tests and challenges and while I get frustrated by him every day, I’m always grateful for him in my prayers. I’m definitely a flawed person, but he’s made me a lot better of a person than I used to be. I can think back to what I was five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago … there’s no doubt he’s making me better. I know he motivated me to start trying to make the world better and I know that he’s motivated a lot of other people out there to make themselves and the world better.
He’s turned my wife into an amazing person, too. Not that I didn’t dig her before, but when I think about the woman and the mother that she is now, I know that years and years as a Warrior Mom have molded her into the amazing person she’s become. I know he’s made his older brother and younger sister very loving, protective people who are slow to judge. Everybody who meets him falls him love with him immediately. He’s a sweet, sweet kid who really is only challenging when he is suffering through issues that are no fault of his own. Neighborhood kids in three different time zones will grow up being more accepting because they met him and got to know him.
He’s increased autism awareness amongst children and adults all across the country. He once even motivated more than a dozen soldiers serving in the Middle East to run a marathon as a way for them fight what he suffers from.
For a kid who’s turning 10 and doesn’t even know it’s his birthday, he sure has done a lot to make this world a better place. It’s not possible for me to never grieve over what he goes through, but it’s very possible for me to focus on the blessings that he brings. This is his life and it’s my life and it’s my family’s life and I’m grateful for the 10 years we’ve had with him. I’m certainly looking forward to the next 10. They’re definitely going to be better.