Posted March 8, 2012 by jimhigley
At a recent dinner with New York Times best selling author, David Finch (“The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and one Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband”) I left the table with a full stomach and my own “Best Practice!” You can also hear more from David on Bobblehead Dad Radio!
“Wait,” David said to me. “You mean you have to stop and think how you’re going to react to your kids? It’s not instinctive?”
David’s question made me pause. Because I realized, right there in Evanston’s funkalicious (their word, not mine!) Lucky Platter Restaurant, I was being served a life lesson.
The “David” in the story is New York Times best selling author, David Finch. His new book, “The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband” is taking the literary world by storm. He even got some Oprah-love in the January issue of her magazine.
It’s a story about a marriage and a badly broken relationship. It’s about a husband who is out of touch with the needs, emotions and day-to-day feelings of his wife. A story, not doubt, many understand.
The Finch family story, however, took a remarkable twist when – a few years into their marriage – David received a diagnosis of Asperger Syndome. And while the diagnosis began to explain a great deal of David’s idiosyncrasies, quirks and compulsions – it certainly didn’t make him any easier to live with.
Determined to change, David committed himself to being a better husband and father – no easy task for a guy whose autism spectrum condition made seeing his wife’s point of view a near impossibility. David’s empathy-deficient DNA made him better known for his repetitive rituals, bursts of anger, and stunted social skills.
However, through meticulous note-taking on his part – all documented in his “journal of best practices” – David developed a collection of hundreds of maxims through his daily epiphanies and self-reflective moments. Things like, “apologies don’t count when you shout them,” or “don’t change the radio station when someone’s singing to it.”
Endearing. Reflective. A tad sad. But such delicious nuggets of real life.
Which brings me back to dinner at the Lucky Platter where – over a table covered with our cheese pizza and a tuna melt – David, the student, became David, the teacher.
You see, during dinner, we didn’t talk that much about our respective writing, our literary journeys, or the ups-and-downs of launching a book. What we talked about was that which we both loved most. Our families. We talked about mistakes we’ve made as fathers and an overwhelming desire to get it right. Whatever “it” might be.
Our children are different ages. David’s still live in a world where they see him as having super powers. Mine are teenagers and older. And they’ve seen my powers fade.
One of the things I also hope they’ve seen, as I shared with David, is a dad who eventually learned what it means to be available and present. A dad who’s learned to not be so quick to react. A dad who has come to understand that conscious parenting – while requiring tireless energy and self-control – brings huge rewards.
It was that comment that triggered David’s question.
“You mean you have to stop and think how you’re going to react to your kids? It’s not instinctive?”
Enter my newest life lesson.
As I looked back at David, I had to just smile. Because I realized that all of us, at some point in our life, are presented with the need to take note of who we are and who we want to be. We all have journeys giving us each a unique journal of best practices. Some of us – like David – write those best practices down. Some of us keep them in our memory bank. Others tuck them in that undefined space next to our heart. A place that’s easy to grab when needed.
But we all have best practices, don’t you think? The question is, of course, whether or not we chose to practice them.
And that’s a lesson – at least for me – worth taking note.
LISTEN TO MORE OF DAVID ON MY RADIO SHOW!