Fathers are special, there is no doubt about that. My father is AMAZING! He is the smartest man I know and has a heart of gold. I have learned so much from him. This blog post however is aimed at the fathers who have children with special needs.
Being a father is tough enough. You start your job as a dad by standing on the side lines and cheering on a mom-in-the-making while she struggles to bring your child into the world. Although the birth of a child is a life changing event and full of joy, it also brings worry, anticipation, fear, and uncertainty. These feelings are elevated when your child has special needs.
We have three children so Randall is a father with three different angles. His first son Zach was born before he knew me, so due to life’s twists and turns, he only gets to be with us on a part time basis. This has been a challenge to ensure that he feels loved and an equal part of the family in spite of the split households and the limited time together. Then 4 years later he watched his second son Anthony come into the world. Now he was a full time dad and this son has a completely different personality and put the household on the run due to his Energizer bunny rabbit energy! Then another 3 years later he finally became the father of a little girl, Sydney.
This time the journey into fatherhood was different than the first two because early on in the pregancy we discovered that she has Down Syndrome. This made the excitement and anticipation of pregnancy tarnish a bit, well at least for a while. Suddenly fatherhood brought fear, worry, uncertainty and concern. What did all this really mean? How would life change? Suddenly fatherhood had become scary. Additionally, he had a new role thrust upon him, “being the rock”. His wife had become fragile emotionally and physically. The trek through the remaining months of pregnancy was riddled with concerns and problems. There were ER visits, separating hips, months of bed rest and finally a premature birth that was something only seen in bad sitcoms. The final stretch into fatherhood forced my rock of a husband to drive his wife to the hospital at 2:00am with contractions only 1 min apart! Trust me when I say that we barely made it in time to deliver!
In the last four years since this episode, Randall has had the role of a dad, just like every other father in the world, but with the added role of a dad of a daughter with special needs. So what makes this kind of dad different, and special? Because in addition to the typical role of dads, there are special assignments that these dads have:
- Balancing the feelings and attention of ALL of the children.
- Making all of the kids feel special in their own ways
- Keeping an extra eye on the future for the child with special needs
- Listening to mom worry about the “what ifs”
- Supporting mom while she goes to all the Special needs trainings, programs, workshops, (board meetings) or attending with her
- Going over IEPs, Attending ARDs
- Reaching out to other families of children with special needs and sharing their stories
Randall especially, you are amazing because of all of this plus you are a fabulous First Guy!
- You are a wonderful “First Guy” and support me as President of DSACT
- You listen to me worry, rant, discuss, and dream about making the organization grow.
- You have supported me in my need to be involved for the last 3 years
- You jump in and volunteer whenever there is a need!
- You are a fabulous support and share your heart with other families without hesitation.
- You make Sydney feel like a princess and the boys know that you LOVE them dearly
- You have a strong faith that you share with our children
- You are the love of my life!!
To all the dads out there, especially my dad and my husband, HAPPY Father’s Day! To all of the dads of special needs kids, a special shout out to you!