Your mom and I have been stressed, tired, sad, angry, and generally worried about how this pandemic was unfolding and what it meant for your life.
We deal with massive changes in our own schedules, work, health, and household finances. We saw the country being invaded by a relentless virus that brought deadly waves crashing into everything around us.
Our lives changed. Your life changed. Honestly, the fear was too much to bear sometimes.
You were a constant source of joy and hope as we tried to make sense of a situation that had nothing to do with it. Remote learning was a challenge for everyone involved. Children with disabilities were increasingly ignored and marginalized across the country. Autistic children like you were no exception.
You still managed to show the teachers how smart you are despite being nervous about those Zoom classrooms and being asked to “get involved” more. Thanks to your mom and the great teachers you have for that, by the way. They are the reason you continued to excel in school this year and they gave you all the accommodations you needed, without question.
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Where you personally helped me the most was with your insistence that we play video games together, as much as possible. I also owe you an apology for that. that’s coming. But if I’m being honest, some of the most fun I had and the most normal thing I felt was while playing Minecraft and Roblox with you.
I was able to see his curiosity and sense of exploration in real time and saw his communication and social skills grow in general. You taught me about the games and had more patience than me when things didn’t go our way. Those sessions became moments of calm once I stopped getting angry or frustrated with things that neither of us can control.
Now, an apology.
The truth is that it took me a long time to realize that you needed him to be calm and attractive. Parents are often pushed from many sides, stretched to limits we didn’t know existed, and it’s hard to remember that our families sometimes need us to be alone with them.
It took me too long to realize that you were too stressed and confused about why the world suddenly went off the rails and stopped.
It took me too long to accept that hours of playing Minecraft together could be a therapeutic exercise for both of us. For me to do something as simple as driving around Washington, DC, playing Pokemon Go with you would become a jumping off point for laughter and excitement.
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It took me a long time to understand that being your father would erase most of the stress and worry that we were trying to protect you from.
Fortunately, it seems that we are at the back of this pandemic and it seems that their turn for the vaccine is near.
We don’t know what that means for you in the long run. We’re still going to homeschool you while we wait. And we are likely to remain in a constant state of distrust as things return to a less scary normal.
But this last year has been one I will never forget, thanks to you. I saw the world being invaded by a virus. I watched the work get harder and harder as we did our best to report what was going on. I saw friends lose family members, strangers argue over masks, and our elected leaders fail at their jobs.
What kept me grounded through all of that was watching you be the beautiful child that you are and learning from you how to live in a space that isn’t always built for your needs. Keep in mind that we try to do everything possible for your good.
Thanks. I am sorry.
Louie Villalobos is an audience development editor for USA TODAY Opinion. Follow him on Twitter: @louievillalobos