Evan Stein: “I’m A Very Lucky Father”

Evan Stein is a native Westporter, a 1992 Staples High School graduate, and a proud father.

He now lives in Manhattan, and works as a neuroradiologist in Brooklyn. But he, his wife and boys will be at Compo all summer long. (They ponied up for an out-of-town beach sticker.)

On this Father’s Day, he reflects on the challenges — and joys — of a special type of fatherhood. The piece was posted this past Thursday on “The New Normal.”

Sometimes I feel bad about being a father of a child with autism. And then something crazy happens.

This week it was something tragic. A little boy who was born the day before my son, in the same hospital 10 years ago, died in a tragic accident while on a joyful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And now, I can’t sleep.

I don’t think my son could enjoy the Baseball Hall of Fame. He doesn’t really like baseball. I think he thinks he’s supposed to like it. He even tried a Challenger League (Little League for kids with special needs) last year.

Josh Stein

When he said he wanted to try it, I ran to a sporting goods store to buy him a lefty mitt. They asked if I wanted to donate $2 to help children with autism. I said, “this whole purchase is to help a child with autism!”

He wore the mitt twice. He stood in the field and waved his bat at the ball. He ran to first. He ate 2 hot dogs.

It’s always 2 hot dogs. He prefers CitiField to Yankee Stadium. It’s not the Mets or the better sight lines. It’s Shake Shack. CitiField has it. Yankee Stadium does not. 2 hot dogs. Always 2 hot dogs. Shake Shack because he’s a hot dog snob.

But he’s mine. If he wants to repeat 10 jokes or skits from Sesame Street with Ernie and Bert or Neil Patrick Harris as the Fairy Shoe Person or Lin Manuel Miranda as Freddy Flapman or a bit with the Good Cop and the Bad Cop from the LEGO Movie or from some other video on YouTube that I can’t stand but he loves, I’ll do it.

I’ll let him do the sequence of jokes and skits 10 times in a row. Sometimes 20. When I’m supposed to do it alone or it’s a team act, like Abbott and Costello, I’ll let him correct me until I get the accent just the way he wants it and say it with the inflection he prefers. I’ll do it over and over because when I get it right he smiles and giggles and laughs.

Josh enjoys Compo Beach.

He’s falling behind his grade level because it’s hard to get him to pay attention to his lessons. His academic progress seems to be slower and slower while the therapists and teachers focus on keeping him focused.

I would work on his homework with him but he won’t let me. I’d teach him multiplication and math tricks I’ve learned but it’s pointless. His memory lets him memorize arithmetic in a way that often surpasses my skills. And he’s starting to get fractions now — at least that’s what I see in his reports from school. He doesn’t do that with me. Mostly, he leaves school in school and only acquiesces to homework with his therapists but not with me. Maybe someday.

He likes when I take him to run short distances at New York Road Runner events and he runs 400 yards with a smile burned onto his face. He loves the cheering and the medal around his neck. And then he wants the 2 hot dogs at Shake Shack. And he wants to pick the Shake Shack. Even if it’s one that’s 45 minutes away without traffic. And I’ll take him because I just want to see him smile.

The Stein family

I give him almost whatever he wants whenever he wants. I’m pretty sure it makes me a bad dad but he has the short end of the stick and I’m not sure the stick is ever going to get any longer. I’ll usually give him whatever I can to make him happy.

Except when he makes me crazy.

I’ll try again tomorrow to not yell when he makes me crazy. When he asks one too many times for me to do it again. When he says something mean to me or his mom or his brother for no reason other than that he likes the way it sounds to say idiot or moron or jerk. He doesn’t mean it and I think he knows it’s wrong but it’s just one more thing that he can’t seem to control. And getting upset is stupid (another favorite word of his) because then he knows he got me and that’s really his goal so when I get upset I’ve lost twice.

But he’s here and he’s mine and I don’t ever want to lose him.

Josh, as a newborn

My son has autism. Being a father isn’t what I thought it would be but maybe it’s the same father I would have always been.

I’ll never know. Can’t really compare it to being a father to my son without autism because he’s still the son to a father who is the father of a boy with autism. It will always be an uncontrolled experiment.

I love being his father. Being father to both of them. Separately and together.

I’m very lucky. Really, I am. Sometimes I just need a reminder of just how lucky.

23 responses to “Evan Stein: “I’m A Very Lucky Father”

  1. Thank you, Dan, for republishing this. While it is about my love for my son that I re-examined earlier this week at 1 in the morning when I could not sleep on Tuesday night. I wanted to add that the Ryan family was a big part of my childhood and my heart aches for them and the Deloreys. I wish I knew Perrin through more than pictures and stories and I do not pretend to know the family’s suffering. On this and all future days, I wish them only the best.

    • Evan, our family is moved by your story and buoyed by your thoughts and caring for us. Thank you.

      Have a Happy Father’s Day. You are a great Dad….how could you not be, you learned from best!

  2. Absolutely beautiful.

  3. Bonnie Bradley

    Thank you, Evan, for sharing your beautiful story.

    You have taken me… us all, into your world as a dad who defines the very meaning of the word in terms of love, responsibility and compassion. Life has such a way of throwing the unpredictable right at our feet and how we deal with it is the measure of a man, or woman. You stand very tall and I’m sure Josh loves you very much. Your story brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Would that the rest of the world could follow your example; it would be a far better place.

    • Thank you. I come from a great family with generations of training in how to love. I usually wear my heart on my sleeve and overshare regularly so reflecting on my concerns on whether I am doing the right things for Josh and how what he does impacts my life was a great chance to share everythought I was having at 1 in the morning.

  4. Linda (Pomerantz) Novis

    Beautifully written;brought tears to my eyes- everything here so similar to
    our son’s journey,( now 22)…and as a mom, reading especially the last part next to the photo-and especially the last sentence- helps in Keeping it All in
    Thanks for this.

  5. Frank Spero

    you are LUCKY and a great father tis story is a real tear jerker thanks for sharing

  6. I never met Evan Stein. We invited him to be our guest at our 50th reunion in 2002 but he couldn’t make it. Evan had set up the website for Staples alumni and I was the keeper of the records for Staples class of 1950. That site was a wonderful tool that still helps me keep track of our class, even up to our 67th reunion last August. Obviously, I missed meeting a super person. My best wishes to him and his family.

    • Thank you, Karl. I’m glad to have been a help to you and your class then. It was fun being the webmaster for that site but the power of Facebook and the internet feels like it made it superfluous.

  7. Evan, I loved how this writing honors fatherhood. It is a noble,rewarding,frustrating, complicated role. Your sons must certainly feel your love. Love is the bottom line, the result that we as parents aim for…that they feel loved, safe, amazing, joyful. With the care and consideration you give to Josh, I trust that both of your boys love having you as their dad.

  8. Stephanie Bass

    God bless you and your family.

  9. Dana Brownell

    that is absolutely beautiful. Your family is just as lucky to have you as a father as you are to have your family. Happy Father’s Day

  10. Lisa Weinstein

    No more words. It’s perfect! Happy Fathers Day.

  11. Cool name 🙂

  12. Eric Buchroeder

    Autism came into my family in’92. What Rather day about it being a different type of journey is true in my opinion. Thanks for showcasing.