8. Guilt

I was sitting in our group circle, surrounded by other men on the special needs parenting journey when our facilitator made an observation. “Y’all are absolutely wrecked with guilt. I hadn’t expected that.” She was right. Most people outside the special needs parenting journey see us from the outside in, as people dealing with immense unfairness and hardship. We are victims of circumstance looking up at a lifetime of difficulty. We are someone to feel sorry for. Most of the father’s I spend time with on the journey don’t spend much time feeling sorry for ourselves though. Instead, we spend…

7. Peace

One of the great disruptions of our lives is the arrival of our children. It’s glorious and fulfilling and all the wonderful things people say it is. But it’s a disruption. And for many fathers that disruption finds us horribly unprepared. Many of us pictured ourselves as fathers. We may have assumed that whatever journey we would be on, would include a family and children of our own. But few of us spent much energy picturing ourselves in the throes of fatherhood. No sleep. No free time. No control. The one great determinant on whether we make it through the…

6. Shame

My son has done embarrassing things in public. They’re so embarrassing, they’re not really worth bringing up. For the sake of the point I’d like to make, you can just imagine whatever cute but embarrassing thing any of your kids have done as toddlers, then project that to a seventh grader. It’s happened. And it will happen again. If you spend enough time around special needs families, you see the pattern. Out in public, someone’s kid or adult child, has a meltdown. The people around them react predictably. First they are startled. Then they’re concerned that something is wrong. Then…

5. Mindset

I sat down a little while back for a talk with friend and retired Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf on his podcast Cleared Hot. We talked a bit about the journey of parenting and our experiences in the service. Something he told me has rattled around a bit for a few years now. When he was an instructor at BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) the legendary SEAL indoctrination training, his job was to make it as difficult for candidates to make it through the program as possible. And the most effective way he found was to get them to expand their…

4. Faith

In the early days of our journey, the months after our son’s diagnosis and my return from my last deployment to Iraq, things were unimaginably difficult. He wouldn’t sleep. Whatever devolution and regression that was happening with him drove an aversion to staying still long enough to fall asleep. I would lie in his little bed with him, holding on to him as he kicked and screamed like he was lit on fire. Eventually, he would wear himself out and drift off. Sometimes it took most of the night. Sometimes just hours. There was a night, in the depths of…

3. Roles

“A woman’s place is in the home. “ “Men are the head of the household. “ “Gender isn’t real, it’s simply a social construct developed by a patriarchal society to divide and subjugate.” “Men and women play equal, yet different, roles in the home.” These are some positions a cursory scroll of social media today will reveal along the arc of the 21st century gender roles debate. And while sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any up sides to the special needs parenting journey, there are. My favorite one is that I get to sidestep this discussion all together….

1. Denial

The world has gone ahead and lost its collective mind. People these days are too damn sensitive. This is the evolutionary thought that runs through the heads of fathers. To some degree, we can’t help ourselves. 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, beyond the edge of the campfire light to keep the wolves away. We fathers have important things on our minds. The general belief that people who lay…