Army Values Applied to The Military Dad Living With Autism # 2 – Duty

In this second installment of applying the Army values to the man’s role in the family living with autism, we delve into the value of duty. Webster defines duty as obligatory tasks or functions that arise from one’s position in life; a moral or legal obligation.

I like that definition.

    Obligatory

. Meaning, “you have to”.

    Moral

meaning, because its the “right” thing to do.

But, if you are anything like me, you absolutely HATE being told that you HAVE to do something (it’s a miracle I survive in the Army as I do, lol). I guess I have a little chip on my shoulder – a “thing” I have against authority I suppose.

The first thing that usually comes to mind when told to do something is what? Yep, you got it…”WHO SAY’S SO?” Meaning: By whose authority do you direct me to do _______?

With being a committed spouse and parent with a family living with autism, it will be necessary to remember those key words above: obligatory and moral. There are going to be times when both husband and wife throw up their arms and say, “I QUIT”, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE” usually in a fit of rage, frustration, misery or all of the above. This is completely ok and normal for all couple raising the autistic. And as long as both parents don’t do it at the exact same time and quit the same day, all will be fine!

My sense of duty to my family means that I have a moral obligation to do the right thing by my wife and my kids by being there for them, for the long haul. I am also driven by a higher power and in my heart I am compelled to fulfill my biblical duties as husband and father. Duty means that they come first. Not second. Not third.

First.

My sense of duty reminds me that I don’t have time to join a softball league while my wife is at home caring for our boys special needs. I don’t have time to participate in golf, bowling, darts or whatever league the guys may ask me to join. My duty is to home first. My duty is to be the best husband that I was designed to be, the best Dad I was designed to be. My duty keeps me out of these distractions. In the time I would spend participating in those types of activities is time I could spend relieving my wife so she can get time away and maintain her sanity, read a good book, get a walk in, or take a really long bath without distractions! If I’m following selfish pursuits I am taking time away from my duty. I need to read more, study more, research more, work harder to make an impact in my families life as well as the world around me. My wife is the lead caregiver on our team for our boys. She needs me to be at my best for her and our families sake. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t become a better husband, father or advocate by playing on the company softball team.

Your child’s autism requires you to live to a higher duty than the average person. You have to give more than the guy next door does to his family. That is just the way it is. I have accepted my dutiful charge. It is challenging. Many times I don’t feel like living up to my duty. But, I do it. And I find that when I do, I feel much greater joy in my life because I am living in tune with purpose in my life.

Obligation. The right thing to do.

My challenge for you today is are you fulfilling your duties to your special family? Are you focused on doing what’s right to fulfill the obligations you have as a husband and father? Do you invest as much time into your home duties as you do with your military duty (career). It is easy to spot where a man’s heart is. You just have to look where he spends most of his time.

Don’t get me wrong. I know we all have our duty at work to accomplish. Duty calls! And I’m not saying that both parents don’t need to exercise some alone time, or independent hobby time – within reason. That is the key. In your heart, ado you know that you are doing your best with your duty at home? It’s as easy as starting right now.

Ask your wife tonight, “Honey, is there anything I can do for you right now?”, or perhaps “Babe, I got the kids tonight, why don’t you disappear for a few hours and do your own thing.” Give the kids a bath without even asking or telling her you are going to do it. Cook dinner for once to relieve the burden.

Do the right thing.

I know you can and I know you will.

God bless,

Mike

Educating Your Command About Your Family’s Special Needs in Autism, Part #2, Your Values & Ethics Matter

So, let’s start discussing some fundamentals first before going into specific methodology about how to approach your chain of command to inform them about your child’s autistic challenges and the unique issues this brings in your life. We need to discuss some aspects of values and ethics first as a foundation of every other piece of advice I will suggest to you. Effectively, what I am going to be providing for you is advice that will allow you some leeway in your duties and responsibilities at work. It should provide some limited ability for you to miss work on occasion in order to be there to support your family and/or your child’s medical, educational or other unique needs. To be frank, I have to believe that a very small percentage people will use this advice as a way to shirk or “get over” on their chain of command under the pretense of having to take care of business at home when none truly exists. I would surely hate to think that anyone would do that (as it will always come back to bite you), but I feel that I have to cover the foundation of values and ethics first as a disclaimer to anyone who may intend to use these strategies for less than honorable reasons or purposes.

Having said that, I am going to write this and the following posts from a stance that you are newly arriving at your new unit, that you don’t know many people and they certainly don’t know you yet. When you first get to your unit is when you are going to want to speak with your higher chain of command and educate them about autism and how it affects your family’s home life. The sooner that your higher understands the better off you, your family and your unit will be. It will be easier to make decisions on your assignment in the unit and allow everyone to set reasonable expectations for what your unique needs may present in the future. Don’t wait and don’t keep it a secret. Trust me, if you are doing the right thing and taking care of your family with autism in the household, there will inevitably come a time when you will have to get time away from duty or perhaps even have an urgent or emergency situation involving your family in some way caused by issues related to the autism in your household.

In the Army, all Soldiers are well aware of the Army Values in the acronym ‘LDRSHIP’ – Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Every service component has their version of the values that drive an ethical and moral place to train and accomplish the mission. These values are what makes the Armed Forces one of the most well-respected and honored professions in the eyes of America. I am going to assume that you are one who takes these values seriously and one who strives to live by them in not only your daily duties, but at home as well. I am going to assume that you are a person of high character and that you are one who takes self-development and personal improvement seriously. I am also going to assume that your definition of integrity means the same to you as it does to me: do the right things always, even when no one is watching. You may read that and think, “I’m not perfect!” Well, we all fail daily while striving to achieve excellence, but it is the desire to live by these values as well as the deed that counts as well. I am also going to work from the assumption that you love your spouse and are committed to your marriage’s success. Some aren’t. So, I’m just putting it out there. If not, you need to figure out why not and work to correct it. With this comes the assumption that you are a committed family man and you put all their needs before your own. Are you there as a father or mother and leader of your household? If not, it is time to start. Nothing good happens without first good leadership!

Are you an asset to the Army’s mission? I mean that seriously? Are you one that adds value to the team by giving your personal best while on duty? Are you reliable and can your battle buddies and superiors count on you to do always do a good job? Do you work hard to improve in your skill sets required of your duty position and career field? Are you sold out to the requirements customary to the armed forces such as customs and courtesies and all the protocol that comes with respect for rank? Are you a “go-to” man or woman on the job? Do your peers and superiors personally like you? Do you get along well with others? Are you a positive person who everyone is thankful to have around? If you are a leader, do your subordinates come to you often to help them solve problems? Do people exercise their open door policy with you? Are you approachable and willing to give of your time to your Soldiers? Are you operating everyday with character and integrity and ensuring that others are doing the same? Would your chain of command consider you a role model by which other Soldiers are measured or compared?

Or are you the opposite of the above? Are you the one that takes away from the team and the mission? Are you the one to criticize, condemn, curse, complain and exhibit behaviors of a victim while on duty? On the inside, I believe everyone has a true grasp of how they are perceived and the part that they play in the mission and whether or not they are included on the short list of Soldiers who are “mission essential.” Are you one of those superior Soldiers? If not, you need to work hard to become one. Start today because your family and autistic child is counting on you to become your personal best. If you are the difficult, “project” Soldier as some are, it will not take long before your new unit figures out what you are truly made of. Within 90 days (that prototypical probationary period in every place of employment where you either get to keep your job or get fired) a leader has already classified you into a certain group of Soldier. Be in the mission essential category. Also, you are going to have a difficult time making your argument about the needs of your family if you aren’t even performing at a satisfactory or higher level on the job.

In order to set the right expectation you have to make sure that YOU are right. Right on the inside. Right in your thinking, attitude and work ethic. You can’t “fake it till you make it.” In our profession, all non-hackers are found out in short order. Any flaws in character, chinks in the armor or unsatisfactory behaviors will ruin your ability to build credibility with your chain of command. If these types of issues plagued you at your last unit, you now have a chance to do it right – especially for the sake of your family. You can do everything I am about to share with you, and if you have character or behavior flaws, the first time you need to take time off of duty is going to be questioned or perhaps outright denied – because they don’t trust you. Without established trust you are going to only decrease the pressure on yourself, your family and the positive development of your child. That increased pressure, over time, will whittle away your home life. It will whittle away at your marriage, decrease your effectiveness as a father and just make life damn depressing for you. The long term costs far outweigh the little extra effort that needs to be expended in order to be a top-notch Soldier.

Just remember that the difference between ORDINARY and EXTRAORDINARY is a little “extra.”

In advocacy,

Mike