Thoughts from a Special Needs Dadvocate
While I continue to build this website, I want to share an article that was recently published by yours truly.
Let’s give it up for Dads - All Dads! Married dads, single dads, step dads, young dads, old dads, new dads, experienced dads – all Dads! Being a dad is the best job in the world, certainly the best job that I have ever had - and the hardest. The core of being a dad lies somewhere between the life-changing experience of watching the birth of your child - and knowing that it’s not a matter of if your kid will mess up some day, but when they do, will it be a life-changing incident?
OK dads, what did you imagine your kid doing when you read, “A life changing incident”? I’ll bet that as soon as you imagined it, you began thinking of ways to fix it. That’s what dads do – moms nurture, we fix stuff. In our hearts and brains we have a dad’s garage where we take life’s stuff and we fix it. Dads fix stuff and that includes their kids.*
(*Some assembly required and we don’t need instructions!)
I have four kids, ages 10 to 21, including my 20-year-old daughter Holly, and believe me, they all need a little fixing which is cool; I love being able to fix stuff in my kids’ lives! Holly has special needs. The professionals describe Holly with a vague diagnosis of “severe/profound mental retardation with unknown etiology, apraxia, non-verbal and epilepsy. I sometimes wish Holly had a specific diagnosis with a fancy name and proven treatment options, so I’d know what to call this thing. When I say this “thing”, I’m not referring to my beautiful Holly, but rather the part of Holly that the world often sees as broken. The part I can’t fix.
I want to acknowledge the special needs of dads of kids with special needs. Some would argue that all kids, and dads for that matter, have special needs. I would agree on both points. I’m referring specifically to the dads of kids with special needs. Dads of kids with stuff that dads just can’t fix. It’s time to come out of the proverbial closet and admit that you can’t fix your kids’ special needs. I know for me, it was like dropping a 40-pound weight off of my shoulders. And for all you dads who secretly grieve because you think the unthinkable, that your son or daughter is broken and you can’t fix them; you are not alone – You can’t fix this one.
By now I’m sure there are people, men and women, squirming in their chairs thinking;” How dare he call kids with special needs broken things to fix!” I’m not trying to stir the pot, I’m trying to reach other dads in denial who may still think that they can fix anything; Dads who blame themselves when they can’t; Dads who’s lives and marriages are unraveling. I want to say from experience that your kiddo doesn’t need to be fixed, you do! And that is something you can fix. Just ask other dads of kids with special needs.
I’ve been to conferences like PEP (Parents Encouraging Parents) where I’ve seen amazing things happen in a room full of dads sitting in chairs in circles, with their heads down silently cursing their wives for making them come to some stupid men’s thing, having to listen to these other whiners; then one of those guys, one of those dads of a child with special needs, admits that he stays late at work so he doesn’t have to go home and you lift your head, your eyes meet his and you both wipe away something pretend in your eyes because real men don’t cry, and you think to yourself, maybe the way to fix this is to raise your hand and say; “I do that too, and I thought I was the only dad who felt that way.” But, because you’re a guy you don’t raise your hand; you’ll need a little more time to think of a way to fix HIS problem.