A Strong Foundation

I tottered into the kitchen to find my dad slumped against the cabinet below the sink, his head in his hands and his shoulders shaking with sobs. “What’s wrong, Daddy?” I asked, squeezing my Pinocchio doll tight against my body as I stared at him with worry in my eyes. He looked up at me, his eyes shining with tears, and he choked out the words, “I’m leaving.” I stared at him. “What do you mean, Daddy?” I asked, sensing that something was very wrong. “I’m leaving!” he yelled, breaking out in fresh tears. I felt hot tears spill out of my own eyes as I ran from the room. 

 That is the earliest memory I have. My parents divorced when I was four years old, and I remained practically fatherless for five years. My dad would visit on weekends, take my brother and I to movies, hang out for a day, then leave. As his car would pull out of the driveway, I would feel as if someone was slowly and deliberately pulling my heart from my chest. I would run inside and cry for hours, wondering why my dad couldn’t stay. Now, my dad and I are very close, but it took years for us to get to that point.

Had I remained robbed of a strong male figure in my life, I would be a drastically different person than I am now. But my mom found an amazing man named Chris Taylor, who changed everything. Chris taught me discipline(God knows I needed it), chivalry, respect, and honesty, qualities both he and my mom drilled into me with ruthless efficiency. For years my mom was my only foundation, my only support beam holding me up off the ground. When Chris came in the picture, he became an extra support beam, lifting me even higher off the ground and sharing some of the emotional baggage with my mom instead of watching her tackle parenthood alone.

But above all else, they both taught me how to live, love, and flourish. My mom sat me down one night very recently, took my hand, and said, “I’m the bow, Hayden. And you’re the arrow. My job is to shoot that arrow as far as I possibly can, and with as much purpose and faith as I can possibly have.” She paused and looked me in the eyes. “I think I’ve done a damn good job.”

Parenting someone with Asperger’s is rough. It’s not for the weak. There will be days where you’ll want to pull your hair out, scream, “I’m done!” and storm out of the house. But if there’s something they need more than anything else in the world, it’s unconditional love, undying support, and deep understanding . We spend so much time living in terror of the world that we need someone to run home to and hold on to when things are tough. We need that bow to be tough and ready to shoot us as far as we can go.

Whenever your kid is experiencing a meltdown, a tantrum, or a sensory issue, look at it as a cry for help instead of a devious plot to test your patience. If you look at it as a plea for help, you’ll be able to look at the situation with softer eyes and, ultimately, help nurture your child’s sense of self-worth and importance.

Just remember: Whatever happens, you are your child’s ally and staunch advocate, an example for them to live by and learn from. So shoot that arrow, and watch in awe at how far it travels.




15 thoughts on “A Strong Foundation

  1. Hits close to home. I got a note on the counter last September, because I was not worth a face to face even. 19.5 years. 18 yo Aspie. I would like to put a request out there that if any decent man sees a woman or man or grandparent trying to raise a special needs kid on their own, that they don’t have to love the mother to help the kid. A kind word, a request to help in the yard, a trip to the dump or vet or feed the fish while I am on vacation can be a big deal for a special needs kid.

  2. What a beautiful story. As the mom of a now 21 year old Aspie son I know that it is rough and not for the weak. We knew my son was different really from birth. We had to learn at every step of the way what to do and not do. Even before we had him we determined spanking was out. Ever try and keep an Aspie kid in time out? An impossibility, so we learned to take things away. When he would melt down outside we would just stand there and let him run his course because no matter what we did it made it worse. Did we get glared at? oh yeah. We were even told by his sensei to put him in a home as it was obvious we could not control him. We learned not to yell no matter what because it only made things worse. That is really hard when he is whipping your head back by your hair in the car. I found the softer I spoke the quicker it stopped because he had to stop so he could hear me. In a restaurant or a store he was taken out when he would melt down. I did not want to subject others to his outbursts and it taught him that it was unacceptable. I remember the days of hitting when we would have to bear hug him to avoid being hit and to calm him. It has been very very rough but I would not have traded it for the world. I have a beautiful intelligent loving respectful caring son who I cherish. Do we still have our days? Oh yeah but through really listening to him we know what he needs

  3. You guys have given me a lot of hope. I feel like I have to re learn everything. You are so right about the sensory problems being at the root of everything! Thank you for the free videos and blog. I can definitely use some life coaching right now. There are people who need me, and I won’t get any other help.

  4. Wow. This hits hard. You guys have given me new inspiration and new tools to “be the bow”.

    My 18 year old “arrow” has so much more available to him in this world than he’s getting.. It’s time he flies further.

    Thank you for all you do!

  5. What you guys are doing is incredible. I had all the same symptoms and problems growing up. It was like swirling in an abysmal, nightmarish funnel. But because I got good grades I flew under the radar, and no one tried to help me. I was able to cope pretty well after high school and started feeling pretty normal, but then undiagnosed lyme disease went late stage on me, I went hungry for a few months, and my sensory problems are back with a vengeance, worse than ever, but now I have a husband and children. Sometimes the difficulty of the struggle seems totally absurd.

    You guys have given me a lot of hope. I feel like I have to re learn everything. You are so right about the sensory problems being at the root of everything! Thank you for the free videos and blog. I can definitely use some life coaching right now. There are people who need me, and I won’t get any other help.

  6. I have sincerely apologized every way I know how. She cannot forgive me. She needed me to do and be better and I wasn’t. As she put it, “I loved you and trusted you and you hurt me.” Those words cut me to my heart’s core.

    I know I tried with all my might and I could not have loved her any more than I did (and do!). I’m not giving up even though others have said I have already gone above and beyond what ANY parent would do.

    I’m giving it my all to have a great future with my daughter. She is one of the most remarkable, intelligent and sensitive people I have ever known. Her courage astounds and inspires me.

    Thanks, Danny, for all you do for all of us.

  7. I did not always give my daughter with Asperger’s what she needed. I lost my temper badly and she has n e v e r forgotten it or forgiven me. I would give anything to be able to get into a time machine and go back and re-do those times. There is a good chance we cannot repair our relationship, a fact that makes me sadder than I have words to say. There are no excuses, only ignorance on my part. To those mothers who did it right and for those children who can express their gratitude, I am so envious.

    1. It is never too late to repair your relationship. It will take some time, but a sincere apology goes a long way. You can’t change the past, but you sure as heck can change the future.

  8. Hayden,
    You really know how to push my buttons, even now….Today, it is the one that goes straight to my heart. Glad I did not bother with the mascara. You take my breath away. I could not have asked for a better son and would not ask God/our Creator to remake you without Aspergers if I had to do it over. Kalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ (On Children), Dr. Dobson’s “Dare to Discipline” were my rudders at a time when there was no Google, no puzzle piece magnet to put on the back of the car, no Autism Speaks, etc. Just intuition. I made and continue to make lots of errors on an hourly basis as a parent, as a person but my intentions were always with love; my goal was always balance and the bar for you was always high but reasonable and developmentally appropriate. I have no words for how I feel for you at this very moment. Mom

    1. Thank you for Hayden and for the insights that he shares! As a mom of a newly diagnosed 8 year old I am incredibly grateful for Hayden’s view into my son! You and Hayden give me so much hope for my sweet sweet Mo!

  9. Needed to hear this morning, after another long night of our 3 year old autistic son being awake either screaming or running around. Thank The Lord above I have a great husband that shares these long nights with me. I know many women who are not as blessed.
    Great job on the info you guys are providing. Keep it up.

  10. “Parenting someone with Asperger’s is rough. It’s not for the weak. There will be days where you’ll want to pull your hair out, scream, “I’m done!” and storm out of the house.”

    Have definitely been there more times than I can count before we had a diagnosis aged 14.5 y. I like to think I would have managed things very differently had I known earlier but would we have pushed as hard and expected as much? I don’t know.

    Regardless, we have a diagnosis now and understand our boy so much better. It doesn’t mean the frustration at times has gone but looking at behaviour as a “plea for help” helps tremendously for us to be able to take a deep breath and start again.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. You are going to be a great parent one day!

  11. This should be given to every parent with a child with Asperger’s or on the autism spectrum.
    Hayden, keep educating parents on how you saw and experienced things. It’s going to help so many people.
    Thanks for sharing your story with such honesty.


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