SILVER SPRING, Md., June 18, 2011 — I write a lot here about autism moms, mostly because I am one, so that is what I know. There are a lot of mothers who are very vocal about their children and a lot of mothers who act as the primary caregivers for their children with autism. That said, there are many fathers out there who take an active (or primary) role with their autistic children and who give their everything to their kids.
To these dads, I wish you a happy Father’s Day, and say thank you.
Thank you for seeing your children differently than do your female counterparts. This additional perspective teaches moms so much and is so good for our kids.
Thank you for intuitively getting it. I hear over and over that many dads (not all, mind you) don’t do the in-depth research and reading about autism that many moms do, but that you still manage to understand, love and truly get your autistic kids.
If you are the primary earner in your family, thank you for working so hard to make your family financially viable. This is a huge burden; thank you for shouldering it. If you stay at home with your child, thank you for being willing to go against societal norms to do what your family needs.
If you work, thank you for coming home after a long, hard day and understanding that your family needs from you just as much or more than your job does. Thank you for coming home and jumping directly into your second job—taking care of and loving your family.
Thank you for being able to handle your children, either at home or out in the world, so that we autism moms can have a break and manage to get some time for ourselves.
Thank you for disagreeing with your partners on occasion. We may be angry when you do, but often we need to hear what you have to say.
Thank you for taking time off from your job to attend IEP meetings, doctors appointments and other important meetings. Whether you lead or take on more of a support role, your presence is important and valued.
Thank you for being strong for your children and understanding that when your partner cries it is not because she is weak, broken or doesn’t love her child, but instead knowing that she sometimes has to take a moment to grieve. Thank you for understanding how hard it is.
Thank you for being able to cry too.
Thank you for knowing that it can be so very hard to raise a child with autism and his siblings and for understanding what is important—not always that the house is clean or that dinner is on the table, but that your children are loved, valued and cared for.
Thank you for accepting that while your friends and their sons may do activities that you wish your son could do, you may have to help him participate in alternative activities. Thank you for being okay with that.
Thank you for fighting so very hard to give your children the life that they need.
Thank you for loving your partners and for loving your children with your whole heart. Thank you for accepting that the family you envisioned is maybe not the one that you have, but for embracing it nonetheless.
Please understand when I write these words that I know there are so many kinds of families (single dads, two dads, grandparents, single moms, married couples, and all kinds of different work situations) and I know that I am writing from one main perspective here. I do so because it is what I know. If your situation is different, please take these thanks in the spirit in which I give them: with the utmost of respect and in the hope of understanding.
Thank you, and happy Father’s Day.
Jean writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey. Read more of Jean’s work at Autism Unexpected in the Communities at the Washington Times. She would like to thank her husband for all of the things above and so much more.
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