Today is Father’s Day. We don’t tend to go in much for big celebrations on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Life is busy, they are mostly made for the card industry to make extra money and we both know our kids love us and are a bit young to do anything to show us that they appreciate us. We both work hard and we don’t do it for the gratitude or adulation. Still, it’s nice to know people appreciate you and a day to show this helps us to remember to say it out loud once in a while. B made a card for his dad this year, which I think is nicer than any card we could have bought from a shop. I make sure I get my own dad a card and a gift to show him that we appreciate what he does, helping to look after our kids and doing the things no man would ever wish to do, like going on the nursery trip or outings to Funky Monkeys! Thanks Dad! 😇
Most weekends in our house involve some sort of outing where we run around after the boys, making sure they don’t injure themselves or anyone else. To be fair, my husband does most of this running around while I push the buggy or hold someone’s hand. J keeps him busy and fit on his constant adventures. At least he is keeping him active and on the move in his old age 😜
I’m sure most dads run around with their kids, take them on days out and play games with them. I hate the phrase but being an ‘Autism Dad’ is a little more intense than this. J loves to be outdoors and to play but as he has little awareness of danger, he needs us to keep him safe. For my husband being a dad involves being prepared to wade knee or waist deep in the sea and get soggy trainers to retrieve our wayward son, squelching into the boggy grass to grab him before he reaches the loch’s edge or wrestling him back along the beachfront or promenade and back into the car when he’s determined he’s staying in the swing park. It means lots of kicks, scratches and pushes. Not to mention the wailing, whining and meltdowns. All while trying to make sure our other two get time, attention and love in equal measures.
Being an ‘Autism Dad’ also means having to control your emotions as you watch your son struggle with daily tasks, not being able to do ‘normal’ dad/son activities like camping out or show him the games you played when you were a boy. It means finding alternative activities that you can do with him. I can’t speak directly for my husband but I know it’s different being a dad to being a mum. Mums get to be openly upset about the things their children can/can’t do, they get to cry when things aren’t going well and they get to receive most of the cuddles when things are happy and going well.
Dads on the other hand are meant to be the strong ones. The ones who do the rough and tumble. They’re not supposed to have the feelings we have, to feel their hearts break when their son meets yet another obstacle they need help to overcome, to wish with all their hearts that their son could say ‘daddy’ for the first time or that they could go out for a nice bike ride together. I remember how I felt when J said mummy for the first time. I could have cried all day, mixed emotions at this new major step he had taken. When J eventually said his word for daddy my husband cheered him and the joy at finally hearing it was evident on his face.
I think my husband copes by just getting on with the things he can do with J. Running around, chasing, tickles, pushes on swings and constantly changing the batteries in his trains! He tries not to dwell too much on the things J currently can’t do or think too often about the things he will never get to experience with him. I’m sure he thinks about them and especially at times when J’s needs are a little more intense or he’s finding it a little to hard to cope with his surroundings.
None of us do it for gratification. The rewards come in other ways. When we see the smiles and grab the cuddles. When he achieves something he’s been trying to do for ages or does something new for the very first time. When we look through his school report and see what he’s managed to achieve in his first year there and when we get to see his excitement when someone actually understands something he’s trying to say or communicate.
For all the good dads out there, who love their kids and grandkids, play with them and take pride in their achievements or help them with their troubles/difficulties (and especially for all you ‘Autism Dads’) Happy Father’s Day!