1. Denial

The belief that the world has gone soft is a thought that forms easily in fathers. It’s a thought that’s rooted in thousands of years of bearing the responsibility of keeping the pack moving. Problems are things to be solved. Destinations are things to be reached. And so we keep our eyes downrange, wary of the real risks we know exist beyond the edge of the campfire light. We don’t need these new problems. We fathers have important things on our minds. We can’t overreact to every silly thing that wanders by our door.

It’s not a bad way to look at the world. Resilience is a powerfully important lesson. And so is self determination. Nothing makes a father more proud than to watch their child stand on their own two feet, solve their problems and bend the world around them to their will, without any help from dad. It’s a firm principal of fatherhood.

Fatherhood 1.0 that is.

Fatherhood 2.0 is another story though. In our world, some problems can’t be solved. And some destinations will never be reached. And those two realities scare us to death.

Fathers of special needs children live in two sorts of denial. The first is that there isn’t any problem at all. If it’s the type of issue that can be denied, like a variable diagnosis or developmental disorders, we don’t listen. We assign concern to over dramatic mothers or relatives that spend too much time reading the horror stories of parenting on Facebook. And so the first type of denial is the easiest. That there’s nothing wrong. The second is that it’s not our issue to deal with. When we can’t deny the issue any longer or perhaps its the sort that came with the concrete certainty of severity, we find ways to hide from it. Sometimes we run right out. But most of the time, we just hide in our responsibilities as fathers. Someone has to make the money and provide the health insurance. Someone has to make sure the other kids get some attention. Someone has to find a way to pretend that the life that scares us to death, the one we can’t fix, isn’t ours.

It is though. And when we deny it, we do so at great cost.

Every second we deny the reality of special needs parenting, we put distance between us and people who need our strength. At some point, that distance gets too great. And it all comes crashing down. I’ve seen it over and over and over. Children don’t get the help that could have made a difference. Mothers resent fathers. And eventually the reckoning comes. It always does. It’s either pain now, or pain later. And the beauty of pain now is that you get to go through it with the others you love. And get on to the healing with them too. Rest assured the train will start moving. Whether you’re on it, or not.

Father’s, hear me now. If your wife or partner or whoever it is that you’re raising your child with tells you that they think something’s wrong with your child, listen. Shutting it out isn’t a sign of strength. It’s cowardice. And I can tell you first hand, it leaves a mark.

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