HOW MY CHILD SHAPED MY LIFE – FATHER’S DAY EDITION

Having a child transforms you. Having a child with a disability can change not just you, but the way you see the world.

We hear from a lot of mothers about this unique journey. But what about dads? We asked several fathers of children with disabilities how their child has shaped not just their live and their world view.

“I have witnessed that people do not have tolerance of people with disabilities. My daughter is awesome! She has changed my perspective on what is important in life.”

“Having a child with a disability has woken me up to what is truly important – love and appreciation.  When my daughter was born, I mourned the fact that she would not have the lifetime experience I initially imagined for her.  I felt that she would be missing something.  To be honest, these thoughts still occur to me at times, when I see a typically-developing child half my daughter’s age easily meet a landmark that she is still struggling to meet.  But those are just thoughts to be with and let go.  My daughter continues to teach me what is most important in life.  She teaches me how to love more deeply, how to really enjoy the present moment, how to see the joy that is all around us.  She slows me down.  She has also opened me up to a world of people who continue to impress and astound me.  Because of my daughter, I am involved with the Partnership for People with Disabilities, I have the pleasure of attending the “I’m Determined” summit year after year, and I have gotten to know other amazing people with disabilities and their families. Our local Down syndrome support group members are some of my favorite people on this earth. My daughter has also taught me to have more compassion and to actively advocate for others who are facing challenges. I don’t take things for granted. At the same time I also feel like I live a little on edge, like the services that she benefits from might be quickly taken away. I am grateful to experience how others reach out to connect with my daughter. I truly believe I see this world as a much more loving one because of the love that my daughter swims in.  I sometimes feel guilty for my part in not possibly doing enough to help her overcome learning delays, but like a friend recently asked ‘Does she feel totally loved?’ I could readily answer, ‘absolutely.’  I look forward to what I will continue to learn from and with this amazing girl.  We have a friend that calls Down syndrome ‘The Extra’ because of the extra chromosome; I believe our family’s life is extra special because of our dear girl.”

“Nature versus nuture.  For years, I have owned my child’s disability.  It has been difficult to accept that this is how my son is wired.  We have sequestered ourselves for years.  I am beginning to learn to let go of blame, and guilt.  He is getting old enough to accept the tasks associated with his sensory and processing differences. However, it has helped me to better understand the needs of other children.  As a teacher, it has helped me to meet students where they are.  I no longer try to ‘change’ students, rather, help them evolve into their best self.”
“I am always watching to see how other people treat my children. Are they being helpful or harmful? I am quick to be defensive for my children and look to make sure they have the opportunities they need for individual success. I am also teaching others on the special needs and expectations of my children, wanting to show that they are capable with a little consideration. I expect my children to reach for their potential and for those around them to help as needed. As a father I see the talents my kids have and want others to see those special traits as well. As I learn more about their needs and skills I look to shift my support to better help them out or to get out of their way and allow them to exceed expectations.”

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