“There are no words to describe the unconditional love we have for our two beautiful children, Jacob and Milla. Nothing does, or ever will, come before them."
Breaking news: Jazz forward Joe Ingles is a human being.
Sometimes, when it comes to NBA players or professional athletes in any league in any sport, we forget that little detail. They are giants, after all, physical specimens, the gladiators of our time. They go out in the arena, they compete, they do things that most people could never attempt to do. We measure them according to their exploits, their feats, their successes, their failures, their shooting percentages, their rebounds, their wins, their losses, their contracts. And sometimes, the news about them can break all right, break our hearts, or at least bend them.
“Parenthood is by far the greatest challenge either of us has ever faced — a constant challenge that gives more reward than imaginable. We are learning each day, and continue to strive for the absolute best for our kids, our family."
When Ingles and his wife, Renae, also a professional athlete, posted a blog on Wednesday about their discovering that their young son, Jacob, has autism, a condition that afflicts regular, everyday people — not the children of star athletes, right? — it reminded all of us what we so often forget.
These guys, their families, do face the same difficulties, frailties of the human condition that others face. They hurt and struggle, cry and worry about the status of themselves, their spouses, their kids, that everyone else hurts and struggles and cries and worries about.
In their Wednesday website post, Joe and Renae wrote in detail about this particular challenge, about the diagnosis, about educating themselves about autism, about 2-year-old Jacob’s version of autism, about early intervention and awareness, about their own partnership, about the steps they have taken and will take moving forward. And they, indeed, will move forward.
“Some days are more difficult than others, but there’s no way either of us would have been able to do this without the other. We’ve leaned on each other more in these past three months than any other time in our relationship. Who the strong one is changes from day to day. We feel it’s important for Jacob to keep things rolling the way they have always been. This whole process has made us more resilient and stronger together. The more you learn, the more you experience, the more perspective you gain.”
Perspective. It comes in a rush when a parent looks into the sad eyes of an innocent frustrated toddler trying to understand what’s going on inside himself and all around him.
The Ingles have started their son in speech therapy, in occupational therapy, and in ongoing behavioral analysis. They said they aim to continue pushing ahead in their own pursuits, and to teach their kids to be “adaptable, resilient, passionate little people.”
“We are good at teamwork. Teamwork is what we know best. Teamwork is what we value and is how we function, in our careers and as a family."
They said the reason they are sharing this information isn’t for sympathy, it’s to highlight the importance of early awareness and action — for them and for others. They hope for the best for parents and children who are facing similar hurdles. And they look forward to the work they must put in to make their lives and the lives of their kids the best they can be.
“We don’t want Jacob any other way. He is our perfect Jacob. And nothing will ever change that. The road will look a little different for him [and us] and will have its challenges, although early intervention is key to help support his development and future.”
So, the basketball player and the netball player, proud parents of their children in whatever condition they’re in, will go on being professional athletes. More importantly, they will be humans, parents who provide what they can for their loved ones, for, as they wrote it, their passionate little people.
It’s healthy and wise for all of us to remember that mixed in with the jump shots, the assists, the rebounds, the points, the turnovers, the stellar performances and the lousy ones, the money and fame, that athletes like the Ingles are, more than anything, people.
“We take the good days with the bad days and will continue to give both Jacob and Milla every possible opportunity to grow, learn and develop. If you are a parent of a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism, you are not alone.”
No, the Ingles, Joe and Renae, are right there with you.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.