Mark Batterson said it very well, “Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.” I was well on my way to living this way before Broden came into my life. Maybe I should ask Broden what his goals are for me?
The first time I sat down with a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) was in Kansas, a few weeks after my son was diagnosed. He was two years old. I distinctly remember one of the questions she asked me before we started therapy. She asked me, “What are your goals for Broden?” I told her my goal for Broden was for him to go to college. I know, what a trivial requirement I had set to mark his success and to validate my success as a parent. The answer I gave spoke volumes about where I was, emotionally, at that time. I was only looking inside the box concerning his future. I knew what I knew. That was it.
I was giving his BCBA lofty goals when one of our missions, at that time, was to just have Broden eat his meal without having to force-feed him. Looking back, I think more and more about the question she asked me. I wish I could have been asked that question again because my answer would be so different if I had taken the time to really think about what I wanted for him. Over the past decade, he has taught me unequivocally about the meaning of expectations and what the definition of fulfillment is to my family.
I have found myself re-examining the answer I gave the BCBA and have thought about reasons why I gave it. I based my answer on what I considered to be a requirement to be seen as successful. Is that a requirement for him to be successful in my eyes? I’ve been forced to ask myself some hard questions. What did I really want for Broden? With Broden getting older, I needed to talk with Mark and do some soul searching because I knew that answer that I gave the BCBA when Broden was two years old was not my honest vision for Broden. I’m not saying that goal would be unattainable. I’m saying that I don’t think it was the goal I truly wanted for him.
With many friends sharing stories and pictures of their children getting accepted into college or changing colleges due to their shift in interests, I have sat back and wondered and pontificated. What is the true definition of success? What has to happen for one to say, “I have a full life.”
Mark Batterson said it very well, “Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.” I was well on my way to living this way before Broden came into my life. Maybe I should ask Broden what his goals are for me? If my only goal for Broden was to go to college, then I would be doing what Mark Batterson was forbidding us to do. Going to college seems like such a safe goal to set? What an easy answer to such a thought-provoking question about my son.
After thinking about it for a long time, my “do-over” answer to the BCBA’s question would be a lot different than my original. If I could transport myself back to that moment, I would have said, “My goal for Broden would be for him to be surrounded by people who love and care about him. They would see his worth and treat him with love, dignity and respect. I would want him to interact with people that would remind him of his worth and for him to live each day with purpose. Broden would continue to have meaningful relationships that only enriched his life and introduce him to new things and experiences. He would get up each morning knowing he had a purpose in life.”
When I write this, it makes me smile because I wish this for both of my children, not just Broden.•
PUZZLES & CAMO
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.