Dads, We Celebrate You

Last month, I wrote about the constant thread of isolation that mothers of special needs kids feel. While I wrote the essay to mothers in honor of Mother’s Day, it was equally directed to fathers in a parenthetical way. I often wonder if the journey for fathers might be a bit more lonely and isolating than for us moms. Let me explain.

While the support resources for special needs parents are limited overall, resources for moms far outnumber those specifically for fathers. Why is this? My best guess is that it’s a numbers game—in general, women have more robust social networks than men do, make friends more easily, and overall have more opportunities for connection than men do. Blogs and support groups are, in my informal research, predominantly written and led by women. Our culture is still more receptive to women sharing their feelings, fears, and general vulnerability, and as a result, this leaves our dads without many outlets and support systems.

This is why I suspect our dads may feel even more isolated than us moms. Dads feel everything moms feel, but have fewer people in their lives to say “what you’re feeling is normal”, or “I see how patient you are”, and “you have such a way with your child” or “yes, autism sucks.”  

Dads, we see you, feel for you, and support you. You are not alone.

Fathers, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day that celebrates the moments of joy and accomplishment in your lives—cheering your child on at Special Olympics, sharing a hobby, winning a battle with the insurance company over coverage issues, watching your child participate in a race on his own — no longer needing you to run alongside him, advocating at IEP meetings when you just don’t have another shred of patience, or watching your child pay for items at a store independently. May these moments become strong memories to fuel your never-ending work.

To all the men who protect, teach, love, discipline, and unconditionally love our children—our friends, uncles, stepdads, grandfathers, teachers, paraprofessionals, caregivers, coaches, and babysitters—thank you for being an important part of our kids’ (and our) lives. Your dedication to our children means more than you can ever imagine. A special shout-out to the two best fathers I know—my husband Ed, and my dad—both of whom are the best that I could have ever hoped for. Happy Father’s Day to all!

— KC