Dads, Sons and the Sweet Secrets that Bind Them

D and his Baba mock-arm wrestling.
D and his Baba mock-arm wrestling.

This is Day 13 of the Ali Family #AutismTruths – April 13, 2017. This guest post is written by D’s Dad, otherwise known as “Baba.”

Dear Dads,

One of the biggest dilemmas we face as parents of autistic children is trying to find things, material things, toys and activities that our kids really enjoy. I was mentioning to my wife the other day that D is almost 17 and has never verbally asked me for a specific toy or game. He has never verbally requested a movie, a dream vacation, a cruise or anything like that.

To parents with neurotypical children, that may not sound like a big deal. But it kills me. I would get D anything within my means if he would just ask. But, he never does.

So, over the years through trial and error we have figured out a few things that he likes and activities that he really enjoys. But it’s a constant conundrum. We all like to indulge our children from time to time and have treats and special activities tailored towards each child depending on their likes and dislikes.

D and I unexpectedly developed one such weekly routine that we both cherish. On Tuesdays, I finish work early and typically pick D from school. On our drive back, about a mile from D’s school there is a gas station named Chubby’s. A few years ago, I fortuitously figured out that they have a chocolate chip cream pie cookie that D absolutely loves!

So, every Tuesday when I pick D from school, he looks at me and asks cooka? (cookie)

And, I reply — you got it D, we will be at Chubby’s in two minutes!

We drive to Chubby’s, I run in and grab his favorite chocolate chip cream pie cookie and a pack of Utz potato chips and hop back in the car. D gives me an approving smile. I unwrap the cookie for him, and he scarfs it down as we drive down the highway listening to 80s music.

This had been our little secret on Tuesday afternoons for a few years until my wife recently figured it out. We had met up for lunch that day and decided to pick D from school together. When she saw me pulling into Chubby’s gas station she asked, do you need gas?

I said, no.

She asked, then?

I replied, I need to get something for D.

D looked at me from the back seat and nodded as if saying, Yeah Baba, let’s do our thing! I ran into the convenience store and was back in a minute with D’s favorite chocolate cream pie cookie and a bag of Utz potato chips. My wife had a surprised look on her face — Aah… I had no idea D liked those cookies.

Our little secret was out, and honestly, I was a little upset at that moment. Our kids, especially D, spend a lot of time with my wife. She always seems to know things before I do, things that are special between her and the kids. She handles most everything for and with D. So, it meant a lot to me that this was something that was just between D and me. I kind of hated giving up our secret.

Even the Indian lady who owns the gas station knows our routine now. Every Tuesday when I walk in the convenience store around 2:30 p.m. she asks, Cookie and chips?

I say, yes ma’am and grab D’s treats.

I believe kids like D have a big heart. They rarely ask for lavish gifts and toys. They don’t request dream vacations, cruises and such. Yet, sometimes they connect with you deeply over the most basic and mundane things in life. Things that we often take for granted, things that we fail to cherish in today’s fast-paced lives.

These kids teach us to appreciate the small things in life that matter the most. D keeps me grounded. I look forward to this cookie run to Chubby’s with D every Tuesday afternoon. It’s one of the few precious things that D specifically asks for. It means the world to me, and I would not give it up for anything!

I hope you have or find that sweet something to share with your son or daughter. Don’t worry about the big moments – like teaching them to drive or coaching them through a college application. I’ll probably never do that with D. But we have cookies at Chubby’s, and that makes both of us happy.

Sincerely,

Taruj

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