Thursday, September 6, 2007

Not a Machine

Numerous readers will have reached this post by viewing the main page of the Autism Hub, reading its Title, implying that the post holds some element of razor-edged controversy or perhaps some scintillating yet subtle commentary on life as an autistic person or as someone who loves an autistic person.

I apologize, but you may have been misled. Instead, you will hear about a child's emergence (wait emergence the right word?),

a child's improvement (no, that doesn't really capture it),

a child's advancement (woah, that implies the the prior state is subordinate to the current state of existence),

a child's blossoming (nice flowery word, but encumbered by the same baggage as 'advancement'),

a child's change (there we go)

from a 'machine' to a 'little person'. I am talking about our baby, Colin. So if you visited here today looking for a commentary on autism, you might have clicked on the wrong blog. If, on the other hand, you want to learn something about Fathers (scientific evidence exists that 100% of autistic people have fathers) then read on.

And here is the groundbreaking news I have for you today:
Fathers (and those who don't agree here will surely flock from all points to attack me based on this statement) do not truly connect with our babies until somewhere between 6 and 8 months of age. We just don't. Its not that we don't try - God knows we try our asses off. We rock and cluck and soothe and wipe and swaddle and hug and disinfect and bathe and bottle-feed and swab and tickle and smooch and show off and strap in and burp and worry and watch and carry and swing and we do it all while hoping to make that 'connection'. This doesn't mean it works. I am the Father of three now, so I can speak with some authority when I say that personification is extremely difficult in the absence of understandable feedback. Read that carefully - the operative words are understandable feedback. What I mean is that Moms, whose exposure to the baby and all of his or her little expressions of need from the cellular level to the diaper-processing level, seemingly have an innate ability to bond with and understand our babies, and we Men do not. Oh we try - how we try! But any Father I know will agree with me that only around the age when you receive that chin-thrusting smile do you realize that your baby has turned from a little machine into a little person. And Wow! what a fun mutual experience that is for both parties. (That's the best part, you know. When one of you realizes it, you both realize it.)
Somewhere out there is a father, probably more than one, who is in the first 6-7 months of their first child's life and is thinking to himself, "This smug blogger dude has it all wrong - I am totally in tune with my little guy/gal!" My only response can be: wait a few months, wait until your baby stops smiling and starts beaming at you. She doesn't look at you, she grabs you with her eyes and accompanying impish grin. He is not laughing, he is belly-laughing - at something you did! Then, and only then, will you realize that what you thought, a few months ago was a firm connection, was just practice for the real thing.

And of course, in complete defiance of my first paragraph (yes, young readers, us thirty-somethings runs out of windmills to joust and eventually begin rebelling against our own selves, even within the limited context of a few paragraphs of writing) I am going to tie this into autism. Its the whole machine thing. I do realize that some fathers watch their 6+ month olds turn from babymachines into little guys and gals, and at some later point change again. I realize this because I have experienced it. "Regressive Autism" is not a defined thing, certainly not an official diagnosis, but many thousands of parents will define the point of development when they began to note divergent development patterns - even regression of acquired skills. This period - usually accompanied by an autism diagnosis within a few weeks or months - is a critical zone of decision-making for parents who have not already been through it (and, I guess, maybe for those who have as well). This is the point when us Fathers (and Mothers) must introspectively examine our attitudes towards our autistic kids. Did they diverge from the expected path of development? Did they acquire a disability? Have they been poisoned by Big Pharma and Big Government? Are they ... machine-like?
Anyone who reads here with any regularity knows this Dad's answers to these questions.

Oh - did I mention that my baby boy Colin turned from babymachine into 'little guy' over the last few days? That, my friends, is what prompted this little monologue on fatherhood.


Camille said...

Maybe infants put off pheromones that affect the dads' brains to make them think that they are more like machines, until 8 months... then they switch off the pheromones.... and they don't affect moms...

No wait... humans don't have pheromones... no it's absolutely true, they don't have ANY. NOT a one... so that's not it...

Babies are the best, anyway. Dads are pretty great, too.

Another Voice said...

Those are moments when you are sure that the little person is looking at you and saying "hey it's me, let's play".

Niksmom said...

Steve, so wonderful to read about Colin's transformation from a machine. We have been experienceing a lot of the same with Nik lately. It is indeed noteworthy and should be crowed about! Cock-a-doodle-do...

Casdok said...

Go dad!!!