Next week another Father’s Day arrives. This will be my 16th as the father of a son with special needs.
I was thinking today about all the new dads of children with special needs who will be celebrating their very first Father’s Day this year, and the ones who just received a diagnosis this year.
On a typical day, approximately 159 dads in the United States learn for the first time that their child has autism. That means that over 58,000 dads are observing their first Father’s Day as dads of children with autism this year.
And that’s just one of many special needs.
Search engines will be fired up. Appointments will be made with Dr. Google. Questions will profoundly outnumber answers. Emotions will range from confusion, anger, disappointment, blame, and denial, to just feeling overwhelmed.
The worst part to me is that in about three years, too many of those dads won’t even be around at all. They’re gone. Checked out. Cut and ran.
Many of the ones who will stay are going to hang around in body only. They’ve checked out mentally and relationally. They aren’t really involved or engaged with their kids.
I wish the 30-year old dad of the newborn son I once was could have known the 47-year old dad of a sixteen year old son with special needs that I am now. I could say, “Listen I’ve been where you are. Your life didn’t just end. In fact, this is only the beginning of the most amazing ride of your life. God is going to teach you and reveal things to you that you can’t even imagine.”
“Sit down, strap in and buckle up. If you want to soar and fly as a special needs dad, you’ve got to survive the takeoff and expect some turbulence along the way."
“You will soar to heights as a dad, a husband, and a man that you can’t imagine. What a gift God has given you! You are one blessed man.”
That’s what the older me would have told myself when I first started down this path. That’s what I wish an older dad would have said to me.
It’s time for those of us dads who do “get it” to step up to the plate. It’s time for us to quit lamenting and just talking about the dads who leave, or who might as well have left. It’s time for us to try to do something about the problem my friends.
It’s time for special needs dads to step up and mentor new dads. It’s time we quit talking, and instead show them how to be fathers to our children with special needs. Teach them, model for them, and pour into other dad's lives.
It’s time we taught them, encouraged them, and inspired them. It’s time we take responsibility for a generation of kids with special needs growing up fatherless and we say, “That’s enough!”
“In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” (Titus 2:6-7, NLT)
It’s time we volunteered to mentor single mom’s kids who have no father figure in their lives either.
The gift we have been given is too valuable not to share. My son with special needs has been the most amazing blessing in my life. I have an obligation to share that blessing with other dads.
You don’t hide a Picasso in the garage. You don’t keep Michelangelo’s David sculpture in the basement.
You’ve been given a treasure. Share it with everyone else.