Dear Special Needs Dad,
I see you.
I see you in the NICU scared out of your wits but holding it together for your partner.
I see you in the waiting rooms, rarely speaking but always listening.
I see you in the hospital hallways. Walking your child, rocking your child and trying to absorb all that is going on around you. You might not spend 24/7 there, you might not spend the night but it is not that you don’t want to. It’s that you put your partner’s need to be there above your own. So you come in and give them an hour to shower, you convince them to get out of the hospital and go for dinner. You support your partner the best way you can.
I see you in physical, speech and occupational therapy with your child. I see you applying the techniques with your child at home and in every area of their lives.
I see you with other dads, proudly telling them about how while their child scored a goal this weekend your child jumped for the first time.
I see you mastering the “I don’t give a flying freak what you think” expression when strangers give your child “the look”.
I see you adapting to this unexpected life. Learning to cook dinner or picking up take-out so you don’t poison the rest of the family.
I see you picking up the slack with your NT kid. From doing homework to being at every extracurricular activity.
I see how you have struggled with accepting the child you were not expecting and then becoming the number one expert in whatever makes them unique.
I see you adapting to the unexpected changes in the relationship with your partner. I see you conceding to her more than a NT dad. Listening more and telling less.
I see that unlike some NT dads you are not just a paycheck where the mom runs the house. I see that work hard, you work overtime or two/three jobs because you and your wife agree that she needs to be home with your unique child. That without your hard work, your family would not be able to afford the equipment and therapy your child needs to succeed. Yet even though you work hard, you are more present in your child’s life.
I see you giving up “date night” for family night. I see you not going to a tropical island but to a vacation where your unique child can thrive.
I see you struggling with the fact that you cannot fix “this” even though daddy is supposed to make everything better.
I see you pushing both your NT and unique kid to be brave, to try new things and to be as independent as possible. Even though you want to wrap both of them in bubble wrap.
I see you learning how to do your daughter’s hair and get the kids ready for school. The dress might be put on backwards. But she didn’t go to school naked. You should get bonus points for the mastering of the pony tail.
I see you being just as proud of your child’s Special Olympic medal as you are the other child’s 4H Public Speaking award.
I see you adjusting your life to having a forever child rather than an empty nest.
I see you loving your child more than you ever thought possible.
I see you as more than a man or a father, but an incredible Special Dad.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Special Dads out there.