I think that in the special needs world fathers tend be a bit underappreciated.
A whole lot of emphasis is placed on moms and what angelic, selfless martyrs (ha!) we are, but I tend to hear very little gushing from well meaning people over how amazing my husband is for doing the exact same things I get wild praise from the non-special needs community for doing. Things like, oh, feeding our kid and playing with him and stuff. Honestly I'm not sure why I get accolades for doing the same thing I would be doing for any child I ended up parenting-- special needs or not-- but it seems to me that the credit I get for doing those things should at least be spread out a bit more equally.
Maybe it's just that fathers get a bad rap in general. Or maybe it's that moms (though this is rapidly changing in modern society) tend to do more of the active parenting. And sure, there are some bad eggs out there-- just like there are some not-so-great moms. Apparently we have the better PR team, though. At any rate, I'm going to take the time today to tell you why Jeremy is such a fantastic dad, and I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of dads parenting kids like Connor are just as great!
Well, almost as great, anyway. Sorry ladies, but I did get the best one.
Anyway, from day one Jeremy's been able to put things in perspective for me. When we first found out about Connor's medical conditions, I was devastated by the thought of all the things our child might not be able to do-- walk or talk, go to college, raise a family-- the list goes on. Jeremy's response was "Well, as long as we can make him happy, everything will be okay." He changed my whole viewpoint of the situation, and that's the philosophy we've lived by since then. Who cares if Connor succeeds by society's standards? There are more than enough highly intelligent, college educated people who are also really, really miserable walking around out there to prove that those things aren't what's important in life. Rather than focusing on what he can't do, making sure that Connor lives as independent and fulfilling life as possible is now our goal, and Jeremy helps me keep that in focus.
Jer also helps me remember just how important it is to sometimes relax and just let Connor be a kid. We have so many therapies, appointments, exercises, stretching techniques, etc. to cram into our day that sometimes it seems like even play time is actually play therapy. Jeremy comes home from work, scoops our child up and roughhouses with him. The first time Jer turned Connor upside down I was convinced the kid was going to break. But you know what? Not only did he not break, but Connor lovedit, just like pretty much every other toddler in the universe. And Jeremy's taught me that it's a great idea to play games with Connor without worrying about what the little guy is learning from them.
Jeremy changes diapers, cleans g-tube connections and administers medication. He does dishes and laundry. He's more than willing to watch Connor while I run errands or go out and have some alone time, and whenever we go to parties he has to parade Connor around to every single person there and show the little guy off, because he's that proud of his son. When we go out to the zoo or the children's museum, nine times out of ten it's Jeremy pushing Connor's wheelchair. He reads bedtime stories. He sings lullabies. He holds Connor's hand in the hospital.
And he also holds mine. There's absolutely no way that I would be able to manage Connor's care and juggle the physical and emotional repercussions of having a child with a life-limiting diagnosis without Jeremy's constant support and encouragement. We have a partnership, and somehow it doesn't seem fair that I get most of the credit for parenting Connor when Jer does such an amazing job of being a dad. I couldn't do it without him.
I'm pretty sure that while, okay, Jeremy is the best, he's not the only dad out there that's pretty fantastic. So if you know a great dad out there-- any great dad, parent of a child with special needs or no-- I ask you to take a minute or two to tell them that you appreciate what they're doing. And I think it would be pretty cool if us moms let them know that we appreciate them more than one day out of the year.
Great job, dads. You know who you are.
You can find Jess daily at her blog, Connor's Song.