Dear new special-needs dad,
Your world just turned completely upside down, didn’t it?
You don’t know what to feel right now. You’re not even sure you feel anything, and if you did, you are hesitant to express it in words.
Your thoughts are swirling around in your head and heart in a violent pattern you don’t really understand yet. Some days you are teetering on the edge of “freaking out,” and on other days, you just want to crawl in a cave and escape from it all together.
You’re mad, but you don’t know who to be mad at yet. Mostly, you’re just overwhelmed, confused, and frustrated.
And you probably feel pretty alone at the moment.
How do I know?
I was you several years ago. Been there, and no, I didn’t get a stinking t-shirt either.
Everybody you know, and a bunch of people you don’t know, will give you advice, thoughts, opinions, and ideas.
By the way, “Dr. Google” is not your friend.
Where do you turn? To whom do you listen? What’s the plan?
I’ve been a special-needs dad for 17 years now. Yea, I’m a pro. But I was an absolute disaster of a dad in those early years.
I’m not proud of it, but the grace of God through the experience has transformed me. See, I prayed and prayed for God to change my son and heal him. God decided instead in his sovereignty to use my son to change and heal me.
I lived in denial and anger for the first couple of years. I almost let it destroy me.
You are going to be tempted to go down that road as well. It’s a wide, beckoning road that is very tempting.
You’re a dad, so your natural first response will be, “I can fix this.” That’s what I thought too, but I became obsessed and fixated on solving the issues. I was too busy “fixing” my son to be his father. Sometimes he needed a dad, not another therapist.
I beg you. Don’t take that road either. Trust me, I tried to navigate it myself only to discover that it’s a dead-end road.
You are already overwhelmed, so can I give you just ONE thing for you to cling to right now?
There will be time to deal with everything else, but let’s start with one thing that will matter most.
One thought that could make all the difference to you. One thought that, if you are willing to jump off a cliff of faith with God, will change your life.
Embrace your child with special needs just the way God created your child, and love them unconditionally and passionately with all your heart.
If you want to determine the depth of a father’s strength, you must measure the depth of his heart for his child.
My son has profound special needs. For 17 years he has been completely and utterly dependent upon us for his every need 24 hours a day.
So hear me when I say this.
There is nothing he can do, achieve, become, or change to make me love him any more than I already love him. There is nothing he can do that will earn him or make him deserve more love from me.
He is my son. He belongs to me.
That’s why I love him. I love him simply because he is mine.
Never let a day go by without affirming and encouraging your child.
Let your actions speak of your unconditional love just as much as your words speak the same.
I believe in him despite his challenges.
I embrace his differences because that’s how he was created.
I believe his life has significance, value, and dignity.
I believe that he is fearfully and wonderfully made, created for a plan and a purpose, and that he is destined to glorify God.
It’s not what you do with your children as a special-needs dad.
What matters most is that you are fully engaged, fully involved, and fully committed to your children.
Embrace your role as a special-needs dad with all that is in you. This is your Super Bowl. Don’t throw a pass from the one-yard line on second and goal with the game on the line. (Sorry, Seahawks’ fans.)
Your strength will be most magnified by your surrender.
Your toughness will be displayed through your tenderness.
Your significance will be measured by your selflessness.
Your success will be determined by your sacrifice.
You have a choice, dad. You can wallow in anger, denial, blame, and your own obsession to fix the brokenness.
Or you can embrace the brokenness with unconditional love.
Because that’s what God does for you, and for your child. God takes the brokenness in our lives and from it He creates beautiful gifts that He uses to reveal Himself to us.
You’ve been given a gift. What you do with it is up to you.