“You can give up, if you want to. But dammit, don’t you ever quit!”

photo from Romanian Television Station

Give up. Give in. Give out. Take a break. Walk away. Do what you have to do.

Every single one of these is great advice . . . for a brief intervention. When you are given the responsibility of caring for a child with special needs, brief interventions are fine. As long as they last about 2.2 seconds. After that, ding, ding, ding, you get your ass back in that ring and you get back to work.

OK, everything I know about boxing, I learned from watching Rocky (all umpteen versions of the same film). But I do know it’s only partly about who throws more punches. It’s also, apparently, about who gets hit fewer times, how often you hug your opponent, and how old and cranky your corner coach is.

Most of us seem to act as our own corner coach, in our heads. My corner coach looks like Popeye and sounds like my grandad. I’m not sure why, but it works. My grandad was very calculating. He didn’t say much, but when he did, you listened. I think of him in the corner of the ring, just looking at me,with one arm folded across his chest and his other hand on his chin.

Between rounds, I look at him expectantly, and get nothing. Then, it’s ding, ding, ding, and I return to getting pummeled by life on the spectrum, or I just hug my son and wait for the round to end, whatever I have the strength for.


After about round 12, on any given day, I am usually so punch drunk from meltdowns, stressing out over what my son is going to do for a living in 9 years, reminding him to “calm the body”, and failing at yet another attempt to get him to eat anything but chicken (or trying to explain to someone why he only eats chicken), that I start looking for my corner coach to throw in the towel. He never has one. When the round is over, we have a little chat:

“Where the hell is the towel, coach?” I ask, desperately.

“You don’t have one.”

“Why the hell not?” I shriek.

“I never had one. You don’t get one, either.”

“But, you’re not the one getting your ass kicked!” I argue.

“Nope, your doing a good enough job at that for both of us, right now.”

“So, get a towel.” I plead my case again.

“Then what?”

“Throw it! and get me out of this mess!” (Duh!)

“Then what? Jason, you want to give up on this one? Fine. Take a dive. Throw your hands in the air. But tomorrow, when you wake up, your going to back in this ring, and you’re going to have to fight again. You can give up, if you want to. But dammit, look at your son, look at what you are fighting for, don’t you ever quit!”


Admittedly, Rocky had a better finish, especially Rocky 4 when all of Russia started chanting Rocky’s name. I can’t say that I have ever had a crowd chanting my name, for any reason. But that just means I’m not that special. I’m OK with that. I’ve got my corner coach in the corner for pep talks, and my opponent isn’t my son. My opponent is life on the spectrum. Like an old video game, the actual opponents don’t change much, they just kind of rotate through, and every now and then I get a bonus level that really sends me for a loop.

And when round 12 rolls around, I generally have the same talk with my corner coach, every time. Sure, the expletives change now and then, but the result is the same. I take a dive, or hug it out, and then I wake up the next day, tape up, put on the gloves, and shadow box my way through the day. All the while, the one thing I hear playing over and over again in my head, is my grandad:

“You can give up, if you want to. But dammit, don’t you ever quit!”

Jason Bobango is a 25+ year veteran social advocate in the areas of homelessness, mental illness, domestic violence and sexual assault, and special needs populations. Currently an author and consultant residing in Idaho, his focus has turned to changing the world around him as he strives for improved services for families living life on the spectrum and education and empowerment for people of all abilities. He can be contacted at jason@stokinjoe.com