“When Special Needs Dads Remain…” I chose to write about this because I thought it would easy. Simple. J’s dad has stayed in the picture, so I was going to write a few serious sentences about how not all SN dads stay, and how that can be hard, ect… but then I actually started to think about J’s dad staying, and how much better things may be if he hadn’t.
Harsh, I know, but this is where my mind went. I started thinking about the reasons why things could have been better (and gone smoother) if J’s dad had left.
I’m sure you’re now wondering the reason behind this crazy lady’s thoughts now, so…. I’ll tell you. Admitting that there was something different, something unique (you know-not “normal”) about J caused a lot of controversy between us. J’s dad (we’ll start calling him “Paul” now) would shout “There’s nothing wrong with my son!” and this would end well-intended conversations about J’s undiagnosed screaming. See, Paul was raised in a family that did not acknowledge any difficulties/differences their children had (instead the kids were yelled at for not performing well, called names and measured against each other); this led to his unrealistic expectations concerning his own children.
Eventually I was able to convince Paul that I thought J was fantastic the way he was, but because of his differences, I felt that he could use some professional help. After incorporating speech therapy (which was often questioned and looked at in distain by Paul), I eventually took steps to get J tested further. There was something different about him-beyond just a lack in verbal communication.
I found myself making “secret” appointments, only telling Paul after the fact, or right before the appointment so the point wouldn’t be argued. It took time- a looooooong time for Paul to accept J’s diagnosis (which I had to convince him that because he has a diagnosis, we can access specific therapies and help that J needs).
Part of the reason for Paul’s doubt and diagnosis-blindness may stem from the fact that Paul is J’s comfort zone. His security blanket. His lovie. J didn’t act out as much with Paul around, and because of this, we were blind to some of his sensory issues. This also meant that I was the one bearing the brunt of J’s outbursts. When J was two I would find myself calling Paul from work, asking him to come home and “deal” with J for a few minutes because J was throwing such a tantrum that I had to put him in his room for his (and mine & the baby’s) own safety. (I know that sound harsh, but there was nothing that J could break or hurt himself with in his room, as opposed to letting him roam the house, screaming and thrashing around). Thankfully these outbursts lessened as J grew to adjust to environmental situations and learned how to communicate with us.
In my imaginary world in my head, I like to think that things would go smoother without Paul being in J’s life (no one would question my decisions, therapy would be readily accepted, and I could label J however I wanted to), but in reality, I’d have no shoulder to cry on, no one to complain to, and most importantly, J wouldn’t have his lovie. His stability. The reason he doesn’t scream when we go to a restaurant.
So J’s dad stayed. Not every dad with special needs children does. It’s not the end of the world, and in hindsight, is better for us all.