Although my wife is a self-employed artist, she is also the primary caregiver for our children. We share many responsibilities but due to the flexibility of being self-employed many responsibilities fell on the sole shoulders of my wife. This was especially true several years back when we were in the process of building a custom home and my employment required a significant amount of business travel. Since we were acting as our own general contractor, upon returning from a business trip I would often meet up with the family at the construction site of the new house.
During the construction of the home, Jackson my youngest (autistic) son could not fully comprehend that this much larger home would eventually be his new home. Nonetheless, he loved going to the big house – especially since that is where he would often first see his daddy returning from a business trip.
Unfortunately, this was a particularly rough business travel year which prevented my participation in a number of activities at my son’s school. I arrived back in town early one Friday afternoon and phoned my wife to let her know that I wanted to surprise Jackson and pick him up from school. She said that he would be thrilled and then reminded me the name of his teacher.
Upon arrival at the school, I realized that I have not yet been to the school this year nor have I met his teacher. After about ten minutes of touring the school, I asked a janitor to point me in the direction of Jackson’s class. When I arrived at the classroom, I realized that Jackson was not there. I introduced myself to the teacher but she appeared confused. A teacher’s aid had taken Jackson to the restroom, but it was obvious that the teacher was somewhat uncomfortable with me picking up Jackson.
A few minutes later, Jackson came walking into the class with the teacher’s aid. He immediately smiled and ran over to me laughing and saying “daddy’s here.” The teacher suddenly appeared relieved. I asked Jackson if he wanted to go see mommy at the big house. He immediately replied; yes. He grabbed his backpack, held my hand and began walking to the door. Before we made it to the door the teacher said; I’m embarrassed to ask but what is the big house? I explained that we were building a new home that was about twice the size of the home we currently live. She turned a bit red-faced and said…..oh that makes sense.
Jackson is a boy of very few words – actually, his biggest deficit resulting from the Autism is his expressive/receptive communication skills. It was nearing the end of the school year and the teacher had never met Jackson’s father. The only thing that she had ever heard about Jackson’s father was that Jackson was going to go see him at the Big House. Ironically, we live in a town where a large state prison is also located. It appears that rather than ask my wife a potentially embarrassing question, the teacher simply made the assumption that since she had never met me and Jackson only appears to see me at the Big House that I must currently be incarcerated.
You know the old saying about don’t assume? In this particular case, I believe that the “ass” could only fall upon me. The teacher may have made a huge leap in her assumption but she was also limited in her ability to obtain information from Jackson. In addition….if it was true; asking the question to my wife could be extremely awkward, embarrassing and hurtful. Therefore, there is no blame on the teacher. The only “ass” would be me for creating a situation in which such an assumption could be made. Since that day, I make it a point to be sure that everyone knows that I am the proud father of Jackson and his older brother Zachary.
Photo by Janet Arnold Photography