Men, including our adult son, Shon, have a God-given need for authority. It’s difficult enough as a wife to learn how to grant authority to my husband, but it’s even more challenging to learn how to grant it to our disabled son.
Shon has enough mental capability to handle a fair degree of responsibility, at least as far as making some decisions about himself. Shon, my husband Tom, and I are all in the process of learning what our roles are in relation to each other.
In July of 2014, we had an experience that taught me some things about Shon’s need to feel at least somewhat in control of his life. He was in severe pain. He consulted us and we said it was his decision about going to the doctor, so he went. An ultrasound was ordered, which confirmed that Shon’s worst fears were not an issue, but he still had a lot of pain. It was a Friday and we were not able to get back to his doctor about what to do for that. So Shon was facing a week-end of pain and doing nothing for it.
He first called us Thursday night saying he wanted to go to the emergency room. We said we’d take him if he really wanted to go, but we reminded him of what that experience is like and pointed out that he was scheduled for an ultrasound the next day. In retrospect, I can see that he might have felt we were talking him out of it, rather than truly listening to his concerns and respecting his right to make a decision. Anyway, he decided to wait and we did move the ultrasound up to an earlier time of day.
He continued to wrestle with the decision about going to the emergency room and we finally took him around 10:PM Friday. (We got back home around 2:AM Sat.) The doctors confirmed what his primary doctor had suspected and gave him an antibiotic. They had to catheterize him in order to get a urine sample. Shon said he never wanted to come to the emergency room again, but at least we did get some antibiotics.
What I learned from all this is that Shon, as an adult male, has the male need for respect and authority. As much as possible, we need to give him that authority in decisions about himself. If we had gone to the emergency room when he first thought about it, we would have had everything taken care of at once. He would have been satisfied because we would have already gone to “the top.”
An analogy I see would be like my being upset with a company and not being satisfied talking to a clerk. I might want to see the manager. My husband and I had hoped to avoid the emergency room experience, but we eventually ended up there, anyway. In the future, we will simply ask Shon what he wants to do, and do it.
Sometimes, even when our intentions are to spare Shon (and ourselves) from an unpleasant experience, we need to recognize his deeper need for respect and authority. This, of course, also requires sacrifice on our part, but that’s a given when you have a special needs child. It’s important that we not only meet his physical needs, but be aware of his emotional needs as well. This is a delicate balancing act that requires an understanding of his capabilities and needs and how to best meet them in a way that is satisfying to him but also realistic. It’s an on-going challenge, but worth the effort!