By: Melissa Archer/
I get plenty of credit for how well Jazz is doing given her rocky, slow start; So much so that sometimes I forget she didn’t get where she is without two parents. Honestly, being the mama, I swear the majority of the struggles get figured out by this woman’s sheer pit-bull mode of refusing to settle for anything less than what I believe she is capable of. But it is because her daddy makes sure I can stay home and give her my ALL which I do appreciate. So I push, prod, goad, hound, finagle, disguise my purpose with a smile and somehow meld her into situations where she can climb over the obstacles and smile triumphant. It’s what any mother will do and I didn’t need the Tiger Mom or today’s helicopter parents for guidance. It’s probably what an old seasoned mom does when she has watched most of her kids leave the nest only to discover there’s a new boarder just 9 months around the bend. At 41, I can say I absolutely could have cared less what the world thought of my mothering abilities or how my princess would be dressed for church. Today, at 57, I swear I will dance down any city sidewalk with my girl alongside, singing off-key to whatever nursery rhyme is floating Jazz’s boat at the moment or slaughter Tim McGraw’s “I may be a real bad boy, but baby I’m a real good man” lyrics without shame or worry about how she and I may look to outsiders. I think this devil-may-care attitude is what helps me work magic in Jasmynn’s world so that she is sheltered from the harsh looks of people who haven’t experienced her form of autism. I have pretty thick skin.
But on those days that I can’t hold up, I have a pretty amazing husband, Jasmynn’s dad. He doesn’t get much mention which is how he prefers things. He has avoided the limelight since the first time we met. It was in the gym where I was letting off steam and he was doing the same except he had a well-trimmed physique which he kept hidden beneath a loose fitting hoodie, eyes averted, moving through the lift reps without stopping to chat unless someone broke into his solitude. He was a man driven; there for one purpose, not to flex in the mirror to boost his ego, but to keep the body strong so he could perform the job he held. With an oath to “protect and serve” he worked back-to-back doubles, wearing a Kevlar vest and army boots that allowed him to run his 6 minute mile weighted down, packing the gun belt and all that cumbersomeness a police officer needs to keep the world safe round his whittled mid-section.
When we met, I was done having children after 4 girls. He said he’d never wanted kids so when the stick cried “pregnant” it was nothing short of rocking both our worlds. He turned out to be a fabulous papa, not just to Jasmynn but to the other daughters who would never steal the name “dad” from their own father, but quickly learned to love and respect him more than some step-dads ever get. So many things he handled in such a different way from me, which was good. When we were given the brutal cold truth of the autism diagnosis and I went numb he said, “She is what she is. She’s still our girl. We were given her for a reason.” Meanwhile, I began to rail against the world, my English- teacher-self swallowing every text ever written about ASD. My need to know what the future held for our girl and our lives drove me like a banshee. He continued on each day as he had before the bomb was dropped at the Univ. of Michigan Neurological/Behavioral Center. Stepping one foot calmly in front of the other, day in and out, accepting the situation I was so driven to change.
As our Cinderella grew into toddlerhood, after she missed her milestones of walking, toileting, speaking on schedule, he was right there holding her hand, not judging or questioning why she did or didn’t do something on cue. I watched in awe or angst of she did what she did. He just watched. She’d twirl on her bottom like a Spirograph as if dancing to the sound of some unknown tune. On a stroll, she’d reach upwards into the sunlight fingers pressing tiny dust motes that were barely visible to our own eyes. She’d gaze off into the skyline, seemingly enamored of the high wires I can only imagine were humming to her sensitive ears. She’d cackle like a crow at nothingness when the mood set in. Or she’d bury her body beneath the floor rug or tuck behind the tightest furniture and never make a squawk so that even when we thought she’d run off we’d both race through the neighbor’s yards yelling her name, just to find her just tucked away in the dark of a closet we’d not searched thoroughly.
Everything that screamed “oddly different” sent me scouring the archives for answers and remedies. Nothing sent her dad searching. How graciously he accepted Jazz “AS IS” from the minute she first drew breath is beyond my scope of understanding. He is fiercely protective of her, as he should be, given he sees the worst of humanity and knows the horrific statistics. He lovingly leaves me to don my rose-colored glasses so there is no more worry or fear added onto my shoulders because he bears those things far better than my petite frame ever has. And yet I have a feeling there is a heaviness somewhere which is taking some years off his life though he has never once spoken of it. His rock-steady strength is just one of the characteristics I love most about him. He is a father first, husband always for he knows I cannot carry this job solo and our protector forever. It’s what he was born to do. And Jasmynn, her 4 sisters, and I are ever so grateful that we have David in our lives, though I know it seldom gets put into writing. He is the shining star for me when darkness sets in; his faith in her purpose and reason for existence have helped our Jazz to brighten so many more lives than she will ever know she has touched. And for that a mom, wife, and many daughters are unequivocally grateful.
If you would like to read more about Melissa Archer and Jasmynn you can follow them on their blog at
http://10000peanutbuttercups.blogspot.com/ you can also learn more about Jasmynn’s Voice by visiting their website at
Melissa Archer is a retired English teacher, and mom to 5 girls (ages 40-16). Melissa worked at Lenawee P.R.E.P. for 7 years with the teen moms. She is now the President and co-founder of Jasmynn’s Voice, a 501c3 which has been gifting iPads/otterbox cases/ AAC apps to those struggling with language delays due to Autism since they began it in 2012.by