What my Autistic Son is Teaching Me About Measuring Results

Here’s an accomplishment: I’m 34, and already on my fourth midlife crisis.

My wife says it has all been one crisis chained together. She might be right. All I know is I want a Harley, or something less practical for a father of five…

What’s my problem? Oh, just the same old midlife-crisisey stuff, but mostly this: I feel like I’m not where I should be. I have yet to finished a book I’ve been trying to write for five years. I do not have a master’s degree. I have never been picked for “So You Think You Can Dance,” and it’s been like, four years since I have won my fantasy football league.

Results are hard to measure. Success looks so relative. For me, every time I accomplish something, I look up to see a dozen other people who accomplished it ten years earlier, with ten times the results. “Oh you’re blogging? And you’ve got almost 400 followers? That’s cute. I’ve got half a million, and a book deal with Harper Collins.

Stupid twenty-five year olds getting their stupid books published…

But then I look at my son. By almost every societal measure, Jack is years behind his peer group. At seven, he doesn’t talk, ride a bike, tie his shoes, or soap himself up. He has no interest in wiffle ball or show-n-tell.

There are some formidable challenges here that can weigh down on the psyche of any parent. Concerns about the future (let alone the present!) can consume me during rough patches, especially during regressions: awful days of stress and meltdowns. Defeats. However those instances do not create a complete picture of Jack’s progress. If I insist on counting defeats, then I must also count victories. My own intellectual integrity demands it.

For example, in the past two years, Jack has learned:

  • How to initiate play with his siblings
  • How to say “mommy” and “daddy”
  • How to go potty by himself (!!!!)
  • How to stall his bedtime by claiming the potty privilege 3 times an evening. (Isn’t that so NORMAL? I love it!)
  • How to find the Netflix app no matter what folder we hide it in

There are more, of course, and most of them aren’t earth shattering discoveries either. Just real, measurable results. And these simple victories seem to fuel him.

Simple victories. I’ve had a few of those recently, too.

  • I learned to whistle two years ago, and now I rock the Andy Griffith theme like a boss. An old boss.
  • I’ve preached some sermons this year that I thought were decent, and one in March that I was actually quite proud of (because I didn’t say “are you with me?” or “does that make sense?” fifteen times…)
  • I am writing often, and some people are even reading what I write.
  • And then, of course, the bigger victories:

    • I bought a house for my family last fall, and we adore it.
    • I got a beautiful girl to marry me fourteen years ago, and she hasn’t left yet.
    • We made five kids, and all of them like me.
    • I came through a long, hard season, and I did not lose my faith that God is good.

    In order to properly measure success in life, we must acknowledge our wins and not just our losses. Then, we must, like Jack, take at least a little satisfaction in those wins.

    It’s a simple lesson, but it’s sturdy enough to help me laugh off my own fake midlife crises. (Yeah, they’re fake. Mostly.) I might not be as far along as I’d like, but I’m a blessed man with an amazing family. And together, we are moving forward.

    * Photo by Sugar Beats Photography

    9 replies
    1. Geovana
      Geovana says:

      It is awesome that you can step back and reflect with humor about your victories and “the soon to be victories”! I am overwhelmed most of the time and spend way too much time thinking of chocolate!
      Just found your blog and I am really enjoying your writing!


      • jason
        jason says:

        Heh heh… Chocolate…
        I get overwhelmed too, Geovana. Laughter helps. It’s like Toblerone for the soul.

        Thanks for reading 🙂

    2. Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Hey Jason.

      It’s always good to read what you’re thinking. Thanks for posting. I can totally identify – the small victories we get seem to get stamped down by Mr. & Mrs. Accomplishment, Joe Well-To-Do, & Steve and Stella Success Story. I got OD’d by that at my high school reunion. Imagine WAY too many stories of awards, prizes, achievements, etc. I wished somebody then could have stood up and yelled out, “You know, I’ve accomplished almost nothing with my life over these years, but it’s sure great to be here and see you all again.” Wishful thinking….

      Anyway, as I remember you guys, I will be praying for you all.


    3. Sara M.
      Sara M. says:

      I can relate on a more personal level … My sin has Asperger’s Syndrome and we are thankful for small victories with him too. He actually learned to tie his shoes just last school year when he was 8. I just thank God for him because I’m learning through him that so many things we take for granted are very hard for them. I see the world differently through him. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Krystal
      Krystal says:

      Jason – I completely understand where you are coming from. Sometimes its like “Really?” but then we take that much needed step back – look at our lives – reassess and realize that while maybe they are “being all glamorous successful” we are raising some of the best children in the world. We have not given up on them. We still have our sanity (mostly) and we know that tomorrow is another day to keep on trying.

      Great post!

      • jason
        jason says:

        “We are raising some of the best children in the world.” Yes! That’s a privilege and a victory right there.

        Thanks, Krystal.

    5. Grace Audet
      Grace Audet says:

      I recently attended my former high school class’ 50th Graduation Anniversary. ( I was with many of the 41 graduates from the last 6 weeks of 2nd grade through Sophomore year.) Some have the “awesome” reports, others were awesome in ways I didn’t know about until now. I didn’t write an autobiography, but I may submit one for the 55th. It well probably begin, “Somewhere between the odd child and the excentric little old lady lives the woman who is.” To have grown children who love the Lord (grandchildren, too), each other and their spouses and children is blessing indeed. God desires fruit, not fortune (gold is for paving in heaven), and I see sweet fruit in your family. Blessings to you!


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