Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dude and Dad

Yukon, Wolf and I have been a family for almost 5 years, although Yukon has been a part of our life for close to 7. Consequently, Wolf and Yukon's journey to the plateau where they are today has been one of peaks, valleys, and rushing rivers of emotional jockeying to see where the other truly stands.

Stepparenting from where I sit is no picnic, even in the best of circumstances. Stepparenting a child with Asperger Syndrome adds oil to the water of the once-comfortable (to Wolf) family unit; a part of the overall recipe, but not quite mixing until shaken violently.

Wolf's transition to acceptance of Yukon's parenting came about over a few years, not after a few difficult months of moving across country, having a new baby brother, and moving back again to the Northwest. Nights of frustration over Math homework, rule-setting, taking time away from mom; all these "normal" reactions to a new dad were exacerbated by Wolf's inability to express how he felt about the whole thing, and our lack of understanding into Asperger's at that time prevented us from truly listening to his nonverbal cues.

I can say that as a family, the past year has been one of reckoning with respect to Yukon's relationship with Wolf and his diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome both coming at about the same time. Separate but equal in their importance, those chunks of Wolf's life were exposed to reveal a boy who wanted desperately to love his new dad, but didn't have the tools to figure out how to let himself do so. Until October of last year.

A friend visiting Anchorage from my office lost her husband in a tragic floatplane crash (not so unusual in Alaska, unfortunately). Wolf observed her sorrow, and our reaction to the accident, and was uncharacteristically quiet and subdued during the days following as Yukon and I scrambled to assist our friend with memorial service plans.

A few days after the accident, Wolf and I were in the car coming home from school, and he asked me if I thought it would be all right if he called Yukon "Dad", even though he had another dad already. I answered "of course".

Wolf looked out the window a minute, turned back to me and said "Good, because I really, really want to."

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