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Father knows best – Or does he?

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Father knows best – Or does he?

Doctor Coplan reflects on the road trip we call life.

Those of you who follow this space on a regular basis have noted my absence for the past couple of weeks. My apologies, and a word or two of explanation. I’ve been on a long road trip – both physical and psychological. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas my wife and I logged a couple of thousand miles researching retirement communities: Getting up at 5 a.m. and driving 2 hours before breakfast, meeting new people, always putting our best foot (feet?) forward, trying to envision “what would it be like to live here?,” debriefing (I kept a daily log of our travels), recovering (while sleeping in strange quarters, and not knowing how to find the bathroom in the dark because the layout of the bedroom is not like at home), then getting up the next day and doing it all over again.

I dutifully brought my laptop with me, but at the end of each day (or at 5 o’clock the next morning), I didn’t have the energy to do much blogging. So, somewhat belatedly, let me share a bit my experience. Although not directly related to ASD, some of what I learned is germane to surviving under stress –something I’m sure you are familiar with!

First, after spending hundreds of hours in close quarters with my dear wife, I am pleased to report that our relationship remains alive and well. That’s no small feat! We certainly had our rough spots, but mutual respect, a sense of purpose, and a sense of humor are what got us through. Second, we accomplished our main objectives: Our first objective was to fill in some of the blanks in our knowledge base with real data. There’s only so much you can learn while sitting at home reading about places, or viewing them on Google Earth. While not the same as actually living there, visiting someplace for a day or two is infinitely more informative. Our second objective had two sub-parts: (a) to refine our priorities in terms of what we were looking for, and – hopefully – (b) to find a place that met those priorities. It reminded me of going to the eye doctor to be tested for glasses (“Do you like it better this way, or this way?”). After visiting each place we would debrief to one another about which aspects of that place appealed to us or turned us off. Did we like “A” better than “B,” and if so, why or why not? This iterative process enabled each of us to define what was personally most important. We were respectful of each another’s lists – If one of us had a “must have” or ran into a “red line” issue, the other went along. Since neither party got to call the shots, neither came away from the experience feeling overpowered. Each of us was able to articulate what mattered most to us, and which places we felt exemplified those qualities best. It turns out that our lists of desirable qualities were similar (although our rank-ordering of those qualities differed slightly). Fortunately, it all worked out, and we were able to zero in on a place that ranked #1 for both of us – something we could not have done just from our reading. Nor could either one of us have done it alone. The give-and-take between us helped us to reach our final destination.

Now, of course, we face a new set of tasks: sell or give away a ton of stuff, say goodbye to our friends here, sell our house, and – small detail! – buy a new house at the other end. Sadly, I cannot move my garden railroad , but this will be an opportunity (I hope) to build a smaller, more elder-friendly line, in a raised garden bed rather than at ground level, to make it easier on my aching back. A more compact layout also means less time spent weeding, and more time running trains.

Through all of these steps, I will have to fight off my typical “glass half empty” mentality. This will be “an opportunity” as well as “a loss.” I have always been very place-oriented, and not too keen on change (sound familiar?). I have to remind myself that moving voluntarily, to a place one has chosen, beats moving involuntarily, to a place one has not chosen (Holland, anyone?. Holland isn’t a bad place, but it’s still a shock to the system, and takes some readjusting). And despite all of our planning (chalk that up to my over-analytical, borderline OCD brain), I know that somewhere along the way, the Law of Unintended Consequences will kick in, and something unforeseen (whether good or bad I don’t know) will happen. And there’s no “rewind” button to go back for a do-over. But that’s life. It sure beats the alternative.

Until next time.

PS: I see that I have gotten totally got sidetracked from the title to this post, but let it stand. “Father Knows Best” was a smarmy 50’s television series, wherein Father solved each week’s problem for his adoring, but strangely helpless wife and children. I had intended to develop the theme that Father or [insert name of Authority Figure here] doesn’t always know best – In fact, there are times when [Authority Figure] is totally clueless. But I will save that for another day. I feel clueless enough as it is.

James Coplan, MD is an Internationally recognized clinician, author, and public speaker in the fields of early child development, early language development and autistic spectrum disorders. Join Dr. Coplan on Facebook and Twitter. Have a question for Dr. Coplan? Ask the doctor.


One response to “Father knows best – Or does he?”

  1. Linda Haskins says:

    Love this, Jim. An ode to friendship and respect in a marriage. Blessings on your new adventure. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob illumine your path and guard your through it.

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