[This was originally written for Father’s Day a few years ago, to my husband. But feel free to substitute “Moms,” “Parents,” “Grandparents,” or anyone else who takes on any or all of the joy and work of raising a child who needs more support than the average bear.]
Here’s to the cerebral dads, who read long, jargony books about ADHD, autism, sensory integration, anxiety or giftedness. Or parts of the books. Or listen to their spouse talk about something they learned from the books.
Here’s to the dedicated dads, who take the kid to occupational therapy every week, once a month, or several times a year. Even though no one can explain what occupational therapy is.
To the wacky-fun dads, who provide extra proprioceptive input by pretending to be a humpback whale, breaching magnificently from behind the edge of the bed and then squooshing the delighted kids with a whaleish, “Whhhaaauuunnnhhh!”
To the focused dads, who silence their phones and listen to the speech therapist, teacher, social specialist, developmental pediatrician, educational therapist, psychologist or behaviorist talk about trying a different perspective or strategy with the kid.
The flexible and adaptive dads, who make an effort to incorporate all, or some, or one of these new perspectives or strategies in their parenting.
The tenacious dads, who ask the professionals the next week, “Wait, tell me again what you were saying last week?”
The wise dads, who are good stewards of the family’s finances, but who know that digging in early with skilled professionals is the best investment they can possibly make.
The grateful dads, who know they are lucky to have a partner who shoulders more of the extra work of helping their little cub reach their potential.
The insistent dads, who make dates that involve nonrefundable tickets and getting dressed up and refuse to take, “But I’m so exhausted” for an answer.
The balanced, tuned-in dads, who give extra time and attention to the typical sibling(s), who still needs to feel special and visible.
The insightful dads, who recognize a few of the kid’s traits in themselves and use their self-knowledge to help the family set a course between pathologizing and denial.
And finally, here’s to the affirming, hopeful, understanding and loving dads, who enjoy being in the moment on the kid’s terms: Playing a video game. Running an errand together. Listening to a monologue about dinosaurs or space or movie release dates. And leaving the bright, noisy baseball game 15 minutes in, saying convincingly, “It’s cool, buddy – I was about ready to go get us some ice cream anyway.”