Eric’s Note: This post was written in it’s entirety by Laura Ewing. The names of some people involved have been changed due to the participant’s age and the sensitive nature of their current situations. Also, formatting was modified to allow for ease of reading.
I will come and get my daughter and she will live with me, whether you choose to or not. When you are ready to come home; you can see her.
That was the gist of the email a friend received late one Thursday night after leaving her husband following an incident of abuse. I believed the threat to be legitimate, based on his family’s history of hiding children from their parents by bouncing them from one family member to another. A combination of fate and advice from the abuse hotline brought us to the Beasley household that weekend over 2 years ago to wait for the protective order to be served.
That weekend was the first time I ever witnessed Eric Beasley interact with a child. Diana (pseudonym) was 3 at the time – smart, playful and full of energy. She immediately took a liking to Eric and followed him around the entire weekend. When he would sit on the couch, she’d sit on his lap or climb on his head or jump on top of him. He tickled her and played along. They gave each other silly nicknames, she is “booger” and he is “Abigail”. To this day, they still call each other by those names. In Eric I saw: playfulness, patience, kindness.
A few months later, Eric’s son Zane was born. I was in the delivery room. I got witness the look on his face when he saw his son for the first time. Words cannot do it justice, but in his eyes I saw: loyalty, protection, love.
Most men shy away from newborns, but Eric didn’t; he changed diapers, participated in skin-to-skin contact and read to him at bedtime. Eric enjoys a luxury that many fathers don’t – he works from home. It provides him with extra time during the day to spend time with Zane. They play ball, play trains, tickle each other, read books and bond over episodes of Little Einsteins and The Justice League. In the evenings Eric will often take Zane with him to Republican Club and Young Republican meetings, to visit friends or stay home with him for father/son time while Elyse enjoys some much needed time with her friends. In Eric I’ve seen: teaching, playfulness, helpfulness, love.
And then there is Alex. Alex is my 8 year old son, diagnosed at the age of 3 with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is extremely high functioning for someone on the spectrum and there is a good chance that he is capable of becoming a functioning member of society, but he has a lot of additional challenges to overcome to be able to take care of himself and hold down a job. Alex’s father, an abusive alcoholic, left on his 2nd birthday and while Alex still sees him, to call his involvement “limited” is being kind; I and social services have other words, but that is not the point of this article. Since Alex’s father left, I have been praying for someone to step up and fill that void of role model in Alex’s life. My own father lives 2500 miles away; my brother-in-law has never shown more than a passing interest in Alex; the men at church were always too busy; male friends of mine have always been too intimidated. Because of the reactions other people have towards Alex, I tend not to bring him around non family members often. As a result, I have spent countless weekends in Brunswick with the Beasleys, while Alex has spent three.
This past weekend, however, is the most notable. It was the first time Alex was going to be at the Beasley house without another child to entertain him; additionally, due to a previous punishment, he was restricted from the use of electronics – his favorite pacifier – and there was a lot of work to be done to finish getting the house ready for Beasley Baby #2. As soon as we arrived Friday evening, before I had even finished unpacking the car, Eric carted Alex off to his office to show him something special. The deal: Eric had bought 3 things to choose from – a robot, a bird house and a solar system planetarium – that Alex could pick to build on Monday if he followed the rules all weekend. The plan was for Eric to take Alex out to the “man-shed” and use real tools to build his new toy, just the two of them.
What I experienced over the course of the weekend was something I’ve never experienced before; I spent Tuesday morning bragging about it to a friend. For the first time, I did not have to single parent Alex. If I was busy and Alex needed discipline or redirecting, Eric stepped up. He was firm, assertive and established his authority (you won’t get anywhere with Alex if you don’t), but he was never angry or lost his temper. Every time he corrected Alex there was a discussion about what Alex was doing, why it was a bad decision and what would have been a better choice. Also, at my request, Eric assigned Alex some chores around the house to complete. Alex was none too happy about it and had to be redirected back to them multiple times. Unfortunately, Alex was in true form last weekend and by lunchtime on Monday, it was obvious that he was not going to earn his reward. When he asked about it, Eric didn’t just tell him no, he sat him down and explained to him all of the reasons why. They had another discussion about various choices that Alex made throughout the weekend and how he needs to become more aware of how his decisions can negatively impact others. They also had a discussion about responsibility, work ethic and the importance of finishing a job. Alex was upset about not getting to build his robot, but he was promised he would be given the same opportunity to earn it next time. He was invited back for a next time. In Eric I saw: assertiveness, authority, consistency, follow-up, leadership, teaching, patience, forgiveness.
Now let me tell you how this weekend ended: Monday night after dinner all of us sprawled out on the couch to watch TV, which Alex did quietly with his head resting on Eric’s leg. Before we left Alex asked, “Eric, can I give you a hug?” and as he did, he said “I love you.” My son does not say I love you often to anyone besides me. The next day, when I picked Alex up from after care, he said to me: “Mommy, when we get home, I want to clean my room because it’s my responsibility.”
Obviously, Eric has made an impression on Alex. Eric has certainly made an impression on me. Eric Beasley, the father I know, is playful, patient, kind, a protector, loyal, helpful, assertive, a teacher, consistent, a leader, forgiving and above all loving.
Our job as parents is to raise children who are ready and capable of surviving, thriving and contributing to society; it’s not always easy and sometimes it requires tough love. Eric Beasley has accepted this challenge and he is succeeding. Zane and Beasley Baby #2 are lucky to be able to call him Daddy.