Vicki Forman in her Special Needs Mama column wrote about Special Needs Dads. She writes:
"Special needs mamas trade articles, books, websites, names of specialists. We research and discuss how to get the best educational bang for our buck, what benefits are available to our kids. We call each other to talk about medications, doctors, educational plans. But the fathers are different. I know of only one support group in our area for special needs dads. Amidst the hundreds of websites for special needs mamas, I can think of only a handful written by, and for, the dads.
Maybe it's because the moms are frantically sharing resources and information that special needs dads tend to stand back, watching, vigilant and aware in a different way. My husband used to spend his days making computer games for kids. The hours were long and the pay was good but the work itself became increasingly meaningless in the face of what was at home: a kid who would probably never play one of those games, and whose needs went far beyond tossing a ball in the front yard."
Tears welled up in my eyes as I recall chiding my husband for not being like me, which, I felt was the only way to respond to the challenge of raising a child like Christina. Blogging, posting on forums, publishing articles, attending conferences, and starting conversations with perfect strangers who have a child with Down syndrome is my style, but it' s not the only way to parent. Memories like this sprang to mind:
It's nine o'clock on a Saturday morning. I am reading my email, and I hear the familiar sounds of a computer program Francisco has on his laptop in the next room. "A . . .Apple". He is sitting as he so often does, with Christina on his lap, patiently teaching her to speak, and read her letters.
Anything Daddy does fascinates her, so her attention is riveted on the computer screen, as she attempts to repeat the sounds she hears, "apple". I suddenly realized how much time they spend doing this slow-moving exercise, with Christina happily perched on Daddy's lap, and I wondered how much of her burgeoning vocabulary could be attributed to this activity. I felt convicted of never giving Francisco credit for his patient work, helping Christina in the area of her greatest challenge, speech.
My mind races to other areas where he is helping her grow. . . tossing her ball in the living room, teaching her to climb the jungle gym, and the way she'll eat anything he offers her when they eat alone together (the latest surprise was her eating sardines!) With mommy, her palate is far less adventurous, and I worry that her diet has little variety.
Special fatherhood may be different than special motherhood, but it is no less important. I thank God for giving Christina the wonderful father she has, who sees her needs and quietly meets them, up until now, without recognition.