Quite a few years back (before I even HAD children affected by autism) my wife took a sledgehammer to my head. Not literally, but nonetheless, it left me reeling and dizzy about my personal philosophy on raising my kids.
You see, I had been out in public making statements that she was NOT happy with and she wanted them to STOP IMMEDIATELY. The statements I was making went something like this:
There is no way that your children can ever repay you for what you do for them – all the love, caring, understanding, money, effort, and everything else we do for them is a debt they cannot repay. It’s crazy to think they can provide us with some kind of joy that makes up for all of that. Kids are a one-sided deal in favor of the kid. I mean, I’m OK with that, but for a parent to think somehow, someday they will get a reward that brings so much joy that the score will be evened, is nuts.
Well, she was DONE with me saying that. I tried to explain that it didn’t matter to me if that was the case; I loved my kids (two boys at the time) and was just stating a fact of opinion. Her response to that said it all. I don’t care what you think; I don’t want to EVER HEAR you say anything like that ever again! And you better rethink that whole message.
Now you must know that my wife is the most soft-spoken, sweetest, kindest, patient, caring person I have ever met. So when she pulls out the hammer of justice, I LISTEN and I CHANGE. And it didn’t take me long to take a long, hard look at my attitude. It was all wrong. My search was on for a better attitude.
Isn’t it funny how you can search and search for something and get nowhere and then in your normal daily activities, be presented with the answer from somewhere unexpected? Well, that is what happened to me. As I was working one day I found the answer in a business philosophy book.
This business philosopher – Jim Rohn is his name – said, “It’s not the money you get that makes you rich. It’s the person you become that is the real reward.” Now I know his statement was about making money in business but the principle really hammered home with me.
When it comes to our children – really when it comes to anything – it’s not what you get that is the REAL reward. It’s what you give and in giving what you BECOME that is the REAL reward. Think about that. If we do things based on the expectation that we will get a return reward from the person we serve it can be a recipe for disaster. Especially in our case – hey, the reality here is that some of our kids will never be able to say “I love you.” And building in your own mind that they will ever be able to say or show you that they appreciate your effort can set you up for disappointment.
Let me explain to you what is happening to you – and hopefully me – right now. As we selflessly serve our children out of love we are BECOMING. THAT… in a nutshell is more of a reward than anyone else could ever supply. The tireless way you go about servicing those you love is helping you to become a unique and very powerful individual – if you let it. It’s up to you to decide what you become. You completely control your reward.
When we are motivated by our love for those we serve we don’t NEED a reward. But we end up getting one anyway. The REWARD we get, whether we like it or not, is what we BECOME.
Kyle Jetsel is a happily married father of six, with two sons affected by autism. The Jetsel family has come to realize they have a choice. They choose to be optimistic, to repel discouragement and to THRIVE in the CHAOS. Kyle and his oldest son, Alek, have written a book that details the JOY, the ZANINESS, and the LAUGHTER that can result from children that have no fear of rejection, retribution and sometimes… no conscience. Kyle is originally from Dallas, Texas but now lives in Boise, Idaho.
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This article was featured in Issue 38 – Keeping ASD Kids Healthy