A Dad’s Eye View

The idea of this weekly post is to try and answer questions from a Dad’s perspective. It’s early days yet, so I have no real idea how this is going to work, so feedback – both positive and, er, tactful – is welcome.

To get the ball rolling, when I suggested the idea last week, both Trish and Dawn put questions to me in the comments, so here are my thoughts on them.

Trish said,

Ok, I’ll go out on a limb here…

I’m not sure how to phrase this, and it might apply more with a son, but do you have any thoughts for a guy who may sometimes feel less than a man because his son is “broken.”

Our son is wonderful and we both love him very much and see many strengths and gifts in him, but I know there are those inevitable twinges and that it makes it harder for my husband sometimes.

Woah, hit me with a big one right at the start, why don’t you? 😉

First of all, let me start by saying I do understand. There is something very powerful in the male psyche about creating strong offspring to take over the kingdom (or family business). If anyone has ever read about Henry VIII, or seen “Tudors” on TV, you’ll realise at its extreme King Henry’s inability to sire a surviving son, or rather his inability to cope with the idea, lead to 6 marriages, including 2 divorces and 2 beheadings.

Now, I’m not saying all men react like this, only that it’s not an unknown feeling. And in a culture, where appearing strong and virile can affect your status in certain situations, to produce a child that is somehow perceived as less-than can potentially cause a sense of inadequacy.

But these are false ideas.

For a start, what does it mean to be less-than? Everyone is different; everyone has strengths and weaknesses; everyone is an individual with particular and peculiar character traits. Just because someone doesn’t live up to someone else’s notion of a perfect ideal, doesn’t mean they are less-than.

Would we love our child less if he turned out gay? Or if he voted for a different political party? Or if he took a career path we were less than keen on? Of course not. Well, some might, but only those lacking in love and compassion.

None of our children ever turn out as expected, or end up making every choice we would want them to make. There is no less-than, only difference.

The other false idea is that of the father being less-than for producing a child who is outwith societal norms or expectations. Are you less-than if you have to cope with more? Are you less-than if you need to deal with the unexpected? Are you less-than if life is more of a challenge?

Of course not. You are stronger.

It’s easy to appear strong if we are not challenged, or ever put to the test. It’s easy to appear in control if everything is running smoothly.

To be compassionate in the face of onslaught; to protect the vulnerable; to still be there when life is chucking everything at you – these are the signs of real strength. These are the things that make you more-than.

Clearly a column such as this is only every going to scratch the surface, but hopefully it can point you in a direction worth exploring.

Dawn said,

I do have some questions (I am new to this blog, so forgive me if this stuff has already been covered): How do you deal with the times when there doesn’t seem to be progress with your child? You feel like you are working so hard and nothing is changing/improving. How do you keep a positive outlook during those times? And how do you encourage your child when you are feeling discouraged?

Progress is rarely smooth and steady in any child’s development. It’s not uncommon for kids to appear to plateau for quite a while, and then suddenly make a leap forward. Often processes are being worked out and sinking in behind the curtains, so to speak, and then when they are ready, they can be revealed. So patience is a key here.

But there’s another aspect worth thinking about, which is who or what are we comparing our child against? Depending on the individual nature or circumstances of our children, there are many things they might never achieve, but that’s OK and nothing to beat ourselves up about.

Is it a disaster if our child doesn’t become President, or a top sporting athlete, or a world-renowned brain surgeon?

What’s important for any child is that they are encouraged and helped to achieve what they are capable of, and what they want to achieve, with love and understanding.

We can only work with the capabilities and potentials we have. There is no point in trying to be a sprinter if we have no legs. But if we still have the drive and desire, we can find ways to enter the paralympics.

It is not uncommon for parents to go through a grieving process once they discover their child has special needs. They may well need to mourn for the loss of the future they were expecting.

And that’s OK, because it allows us to eventually accept, and then move on with our lives. And it doesn’t mean we love our child any the less.

Enjoy helping your daughter reach the potentials she is capable of, rather than fear what she might miss out on.

Please feel free to join in with your thoughts in the comments.

If you have any questions you’d like a Dad’s Eye View on, then please leave them in the comments and I’ll put up a reply next week. Or, if you would like me to write about an issue but don’t wish your name to be publically associated with it, feel free to email me at kimayres // at // gmail.com, where your privacy is assured.

Kim Ayres
Kim is usually to be found at his own blog, Ramblings of the Bearded One. Although you will find tales about his daughter, Meg, under his “Down’s Syndrome” category, you’ll find far more simply under “Fatherhood

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