The Heart of the Special-Needs Dad
By all the usual measures, I was winning the game. Some would say I was even running up the score.
A man usually defines himself by where he is in his career, his earnings level, and how he compares his life to others. It’s how men are taught to keep score.
We seem to define our strength as men by how we are doing as warrior, protector, and provider. That’s our identity. That’s our scoreboard. That’s our measure of success as a husband and a father.
We are proud “fixers.” Give us any problem and we will quickly provide you with a six-part plan on how to fix it.
So when we are challenged by our child with special needs, and the redefining of our roles as fathers, we are confounded.
Because the measure of a man, the strength of a men, is really determined by how he responds to the challenge of raising a son or daughter with special needs.
If you want to determine the depth of a man’s strength, you must measure the depth of his heart for his child.
The footings of his strength are rooted in his unconditional love for his child with special needs. The cornerstone of his strength is found in the boundless depths of his heart for his children.
When I was first confronted with the challenges presented by own son with cerebral palsy and autism, I felt powerless to do anything about it.
So I threw myself back into the familiar roles of warrior, protector, and provider where I was comfortable. I defined my role as a father and a husband by how I was doing in those areas.
As long as I was financially successful, providing for my family, advancing in my career, and devoting myself to my work, I was scoring in my system. I was successful. I was strong.
I was running up the score...and playing on the wrong field.
My strength as a dad of a child with special needs isn’t measured that way anymore.
My strength is most magnified by my surrender.
My toughness is displayed through my tenderness.
My significance is measured by my selflessness.
My success is determined by my sacrifice.
I have chosen to surrender my dreams, my plans, and my desires for my life to God’s purposes in choosing me to be the father of a child with special needs.
My tenderness in the way I treat my child, react to my child, love my child, and engage with my child are the true measures of my strength as a man.
The more selfless I become, the more attuned I become to serving the needs of my wife and child, and the more willing I am to lay down my life for my family- the more significance I will have to them.
The way I respond to being a special-needs dad and the sacrifices I make for the interest of my family, the more successful I will be.
I have learned that in the telling of my life’s story, I am not the main character. It’s really not even my story.
This is my part. This is the role for which I was called and chosen.
I intend now to passionately pursue running up the score again…but this time on the right field.