Special guest blog by Kim Caifano, writer, speaker, life coach, and special needs mom. Learn more about Kim at kimcaifano.com
“I walk around like everything is fine. But deep down, inside my shoe, my sock is sliding off.”
Oh, how that quote (anonymous) penetrated my heart. It immediately made me think of dads of special needs children. For these dear men carry burdens that few people will ever understand or even begin to comprehend. This article shares why they need some EXTRA celebrating this Father’s Day.
My husband and I have had the pleasure of doing life with some fantastic parents of special needs children. Some who have children with Autism or Aspergers and others who handle extreme cases of kids who are wheelchair-bound and in diapers due to a genetic disorder.
Each child’s condition varies, but I observe there is a lot of common ground in the role that I see the dads play.
I have watched firsthand as my friend has gotten pulled out of a church services time and again because Kids Ministry paged. Their autistic daughter was simply having a tough day. So he would leave service and sit by her side in the lobby as she’d wear her pink headphones and settle down with some iPad time.
I’ve seen our handyman friend adapt his house to accommodate not one but two children who slowly lost the ability to walk and ultimately needed wheelchairs, a ramp built, a special hook to hang the portable bathtub in the bathroom, and more.
I’ve seen a husband with a fire in his belly about the lack of funding for research for his children’s conditions. He ultimately took his fight all the way to Washington to ensure more awareness was made for his children’s condition and the need for more research and money.
I’ve watched a close friend handle medical bills and insurance and take his son to countless doctor and therapy appointments.
Any special needs parent needs to be strong. But I would dare say it is the dads who, in particular ways, carry an extra measure of that pressure. OH MY, what must that be like? Because you know that these men’s hearts absolutely beat for their children and yet the expectation is that they need to be the strong ones. Steadfast and resolute. The anchor. For his child, for his wife, for their family.
The world doesn’t allow much for weakness in men. We expect special needs fathers to parent just like the rest of the dads -with strength, boldness, consistency, financial provision. And yet their burden is so much greater.
I imagine they often appear like they are walking just fine. But inside their shoe – indeed – their sock just may be slipping off.
So I encourage you to give the special needs dad in your life a little extra love, patience, and recognition this Father’s Day:
- Acknowledge this extra burden. Simply reading this article to him might make him feel recognized.
- If you’re the spouse and have nothing left to give – no time or thought to even buy a Father’s Day card, here’s my gift to you. Simply print this and share it with him.
This Father’s Day I want to take a special moment and recognize your unique role as a special needs father. It is an expanded role, and it requires MUCH of you.
Thank you for all that you do – all of the typical dad stuff of going to work and taking kids to ballgames and teacher conferences and house projects. But on top of it – dealing with everything that our child requires. Thank you for always remembering to pack the backpack of headphones and fidget toys. Thanks for leaving the major league baseball game that one time and the party that other time and the other five dozen events to be with our child. Thanks for making special accommodations in our house. Thanks for handling extra bills and insurance issues. Thanks for longer tuck-ins at night. Thanks for being there for ME when I haven’t been able to handle it anymore or have been in a terrible mood or have needed to vent or cry or crumble.
I do love and appreciate you. I often just don’t have it in me to verbalize it. I recognize it today and want to say I am thankful for you.
Author’s Note: To all of you special needs dads out there: you are a group of unsung heroes. May you have a Father’s Day where you feel seen, loved, and valued for everything that you are and do. Cheers to you. -Kim