I could only imagine what a man dreams about when becoming a father. One might assume the definition of being a dad is providing for their family, playing catch in the backyard, coaching their child’s sports team, having a beer together while watching a basketball game in the garage, teaching them to drive their first car, walking their daughter down the aisle, playing a round of golf on Sunday afternoon, videotaping their first dance recital, and maybe even having the conservation about the birds and the bees. What happens when these future, ideal visions take a different turn?
Being a father, could change a man. However, becoming a father to one with a disability could change everything.
I am not writing this blog to cast judgement, fight a debate, or belittle the men who didn’t stay. There are many reasons why a man might leave, but when you isolate those raising a child with a disability you tend to connect it with the shift in expectations, the increased stress, the strain on finding a way to help, the feeling of being inadequate to support the needs of the child and wife, and the overwhelming feeling of social isolation. This might be a sensitive subject for some, but I am trying to keep it real and focus this blog in honoring the fathers who found and are continuing to find a different way through it all.
I am writing this post to honor those men who dedicated themselves into becoming a father that stayed.
To honor those men who became a father to a child with a disability and are KILLING IT!
To honor those men who became a father and allowed their fears to show and their love to grow, when it comes to raising a child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and accepted the emotional challenges of raising a child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and embraced the “extra” support and love their wife needed through the unexpected and challenging times of raising a child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and choose to fight for inclusion and acceptance for their child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and choose to bury their own hopes and dreams to only refocus them for their child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and choose to accept the fact their needs will become second to their child with a disability.
To honor those men who became a father and embraced the fact his world will be forever changed and he changes with it.
To honor those men who choose to accept being a father in a different way to their child with a disability.
I write this post to honor my Father, Leon, on Father’s Day. His first born child, a son, Nick, was born with a disability. Not only is he a great dad to me, he is a pretty special dad to my brother.
I have lived it, so I know it wasn’t easy. However, I know Fathers across the world raising children with disabilities DO NOT get the credit they deserve. I realize my father represents a group of a small percent of men who stayed. Who chose to father differently, and for that I honor them!
It’s not about who is doing it right or wrong, but we need to celebrate the fact that there are some pretty special men out there, who chose to embrace being a father, when things turned out differently.
Happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there raising a child with a disability, including my Dad!
Parents Takeaway- Moms out there, take time to honor the men in your life who try everyday to get it, understand it, and embrace the fact they don’t know what to do at times. Recognize they might not share their emotions with you in an attempt to be your rock, but they still have the same fears as you do. Just because they might not be on the frontlines with you fighting, doesn’t mean their love and passion for acceptance and understanding for their child doesn’t exists. Take a minute, breathe, and just say thank you for being there, so you don’t have to do it alone!
Teachers Takeaway: Don’t assume the father doesn’t play an important role in the life of your student with a disability , just because they might not show up to the IEP meeting, call to ask as many questions as their wife, come to parent teacher conferences, or know everything about their child’s disability. Be intentional to include the dad’s when you can, and never assume the mom is going to take care of it all. Allow dads the ability to play the role they feel comfortable in at the time, but always include them.
Community Member Takeaway: We Rise by lifting Others. As much as we show empathy and support to the moms raising those with disabilities, let’s remember men naturally don’t share their emotions about being a father to a child with a disability. They appear tough on the outside, but the inside they have buried a lot. Let’s empower them, show support, and recognize those who are being amazing dads “off the radar”!