For every man who has ever been scolded by his wife for encouraging a child to “run faster” or “swing higher” or “try harder,” or who has been admonished for teaching them to make mouth, hand or armpit fart noises, I salute you.
Mothers are excellent at nurturing children. Fathers are good at riling them up before bedtime and testing their physical limits. We show kids how to cannonball into swimming pools, skateboard down steep hills and jump BMX bikes over poorly constructed plywood platforms.
We also instruct them in the fine art of belching, breaking wind, turning random objects into guns and lightsabers, toilet “pee-sword fighting,” and other uncouth behavior. We have to do this. It’s our job.
Moms and dads have different parenting styles. Moms comfort kids when they’re feeling down. They encourage them to discuss their problems. Dads teach them to look for a solution and move on. We wrestle our kids to the floor and tickle them and until they forget what they were depressed about. Moms express their disapproval with a tsk-tsk sound and accuse us of acting like children.
We take that as a compliment.
For decades it was assumed that the mother-child relationship was the most important one in a kid’s life. Within the last several decades, however, psychologists have realized just how much fathers matter. Raising kids is about balance. Moms are great caretakers. Dads have a more relaxed attitude toward parenting. Together, they form the perfect unit. When a child comes home crying with a scraped elbow, mom will console them with tender words. Dad will distract them by saying “Just walk it off” or “That’ll feel better once it stops hurting.”
If someone gets stuck on a homework problem, it’s usually mom who offers assistance. Dad will glance around the edge of his newspaper and shout “For God’s sake, give it another try.” When there’s a tantrum, mothers do their best to reason with a child. Fathers correct the problem with a stern glare and a threat to “jerk a knot in somebody’s tail.”
Fathers serve another important purpose. They give kids a realistic look into the male world. Girls learn from their dads how men should act toward women. Boys learn how to control their anger and deal with their masculinity in positive ways.
Kids learn lots of other cool stuff from their fathers, like not to bully or be bullied, and how to maintain a healthy balance between timidity and aggression. Dads roughhouse with their children in order to show them that kicking, scratching and biting are wrong. Kids learn self-control when a father says “Now, enough is enough,” and “Take that noise down a notch.”
In other words, moms protect children and dads give them self-confidence. We throw our kids into the air amid shouts of “Not so high.” We bounce them on the bed and mothers cry “Someone’s going to get hurt doing that.” Men know that cuts and scrapes are part of life. Women know to stock up on the bandages and antibiotic cream. Either of these parenting styles by themselves might spell disaster. Together, they keep kids safe while increasing their self-reliance.
One of my favorite confidence building moments as a father took place when my three-year-old son, Tyler, was learning to ride his bike. The training wheels were off, his helmet was on and he was ready to face the big challenge … . Well, almost.
”Dad,” he called out nervously, “Do I have to do this?”
”Of course you do,” I replied. “This is the only day of the year zombies allow three-year-olds to ride their bikes without training wheels. I saw it on the news.”
”But I’m scared,” he said.
”Just keep your wits about you and stay balanced.”
Tyler tightened the chin strap on his helmet and sighed. “Okay, I guess I’m ready.”
I gave him a push and he was off. A few yards down the street his bike hit the curb. Tyler fell to the pavement and scraped his knee.
”Dad, I hurt myself,” he cried.
”Naw, you’re just shedding worn skin” I said, applying a Band-Aid to the wound. “Keep it up. You’re doing great.”
And so it continued. There were a few more crashes that afternoon, and several more Band-Aids, but Tyler hung in there. At one point his mother stepped outside and shouted, “Don’t you think he’s had enough for one day?”
”We can’t give up now,” I hollered back. “He’s almost got it.”
On the next try Tyler kept his balance for a second or two longer. Then he was on his way, wobbling down the street on two wheels. I can still call up that old memory as if it was yesterday. It was every father’s Hallmark moment.
”You did great, son,” I told him when he pulled to a stop. “Now, let’s head inside. Your mom needs a hug.”
Tim Martin resides in McKinleyville.
To know is to love…
As you learn more about who your children are and how they have been designed–how they are wired…
Let them know and discover more about yourself as well. Let them in on YOU.
Disclosure and being real and open as a parent is key to developing a healthy relationship with your kids–for a lifetime.
Can you keep it “real”?…or do you tend to put on a “parenting self”… as you deal with your kids.
My twenty-something kids call this being “Legit”.
Children can smell a fake a mile away—do the know you, like you, and trust you?
Only then you can have a great relationship!
Let patience, kindness, love and the willingness (courage) to trust and be trusted as you move forward as a family.
Authenticity is the key—can you be real and keep to the role of a great parent…Yup!
As parents, we need to support each other’s decisions as we train our kids and raise them into adulthood.
If you are not willing to support each other’s parenting decisions morally or philosophically, do not implement the parent action until you can.
This will likely require meetings between mom and dad to make proposals, listen, adjust, refine, compromise, and convince.
Change will be the outcome—change in approach, attitude, and perhaps outcome in the way you parent.
The key here is this: Are you willing to lay aside SOME of your past parenting paradigms–you know the stuff your parents did.
be committed to arriving at a place you both can accept and support as a team. otherwise , you’ll be divide and such division will be sensed by the kids.
It is in their and your interest to reach agreement and become unified as you parent together for a lifetime those you love and are in a parenting role with.
Hot Tip: Hold hands next time you have a “courageous conversation” with your child. First off–it will blow their mind.
Then, they will see you are in unity and may even listen attentively as you both speak from the strength of your new found unity.
Is Your Legacy Defined by Dollar Signs?
“Man’s highest happiness is found in the bestowal of benefits on those he loves; love finds it’s most natural and spontaneous expression in giving. The man who has nothing to give cannot fill his place as a husband or father, as a citizen, or a man. It is in the use of material things that a man finds full life for his body, develops his mind, and unfolds his soul. It is therefore of supreme importance to him that he should be rich.”
- Wallace Wattles
People are often under the misconception that money brings happiness and if they had more money, they would be that much happier. But does money really define who you are? Is your legacy made or broken because of the amount of money you have?
How does one achieve more money?
Money comes from your growth and your success. Money will not give you higher self-esteem, but higher self-esteem can lead to more money. Once you are successful, the money will then follow. Think of a high school diploma. You don’t get the diploma first do you? You have to go through the work first and the diploma is recognition for what you have accomplished.
How can money ruin a person?
We have all heard of those people who win the lottery and end up with nothing. Why does this happen? They were given the high school diploma first. They did not have to fail and succeed over and over again to achieve their diploma. There was no work involved. They were given something they didn’t know how to handle properly. You must work for your success and for your money. There is nothing given for free in this life.
You have the choice
In the end, happiness is a decision. You decide if you are happy and what makes you happy. Money will, at times, make you feel great. You can buy whatever you want whenever you want. If you think piles and piles of money is your happiness, then so be it. But money will not make you who you are and it does not decide who is happy and who isn’t.
What will your legacy if you were to stop living today? What would people say about you? Would they say, “Hey, David passed away today. You know, the guy with x amount of dollars in his pocket?” or will they say, “Hey, David passed away today. You know the guy who worked hard and gave so much to people. He cared a lot about everyone. I bet his family is devastated.” You make the choice and hold your fate in your hands.
Daniel is the leader and dad behind the dad-parenting blog www.daddydirection.com. Check out his blog for more parenting and dad specific techniques.
My mother, Wanda Hammond, was born in a small town in Iowa—she changed my life….I wanted to honor her today.
This would have been her 87th Birthday. As a single mother, Wanda raised me (an only child) in the Hood in San Diego California, through the turbulent 70′s–The era of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. The surfing wasn’t too bad by the way! While she worked (6 days a week) –I partied…hard. She nevertheless was glad to be a supportive and nurturing mother and always backed me in any pursuit. Whether getting baptized or pulled from jail– My mother was an example of someone who poured out her life for me, the shaggy and sometimes ragged “next generation”.
Wanda loved her job, her son, and her friends at the local watering hole in National City, California—The Galloping Inn. This was her “Starbucks– 3rd place” of support, therapy, and Bud on tap! Heck, they even played Creedence and Janis on the jukebox while we shot pool! Kinda of a family experience at the pub…I loved the grapefruit juice and Johnny Cash and even got good at pool!
I will always remember her kindness, patience, and expressions of real motherly love to me. She was never afraid to express her confidence in me or to compliment a success or win. Wanda was always present at any significant life event and ready for the celebratory dinner out after. She was an AWESOME single parent. I love her….still.
In her later years, I had several opportunities to express my thanks and love for her loving parenting support…! In her later years, the Pall Mall’s caught her and she got cancer….Bummer…or she used to say: “Bunk!.. She died in a cold February in Sioux City of cancer at the age of 63. I was really impressed by the Iowa kindness of those who honored her life and death. The Lutheran female pastor was my favorite—She helped her sister Wanda face death and come back to her King and Heavenly Father with courage and class. I gotta love those Iowa folks!…Especially my mom Wanda…See you on the other side Mom….Keep a light on for me.
–Scott “Robbie” Hammond
True Story: Bob’s 7 Steps to a Legacy
You could put all of my father’s worldly possessions in his Chevy Celebrity, yet Bob Hammond left us incredible riches. He taught and modeled a love for life, God, and people that will transmit for generations. He was not a flashy man, yet his life was compelling, and his heritage rich with meaning.
Here are some tools that my father Bob used to leave his legacy and heritage–
- Time… Togetherness, investment in quality relationships with intentional time spent together.
- Communication…Talking, telling stories, laughing, and sharing life together, while communicating.
- Love for and Appreciation of Beauty… Noticing life intentionally- the flowers, people, gardens, plants, trees, birds, animals, and the natural world.
- Love for People… Appreciation and thankfulness for those in our lives. Expressions of love through hugs, focused attention, eye contact, encouragement, and appropriate touch.
- Love for God… Actively having a love affair with our Creator, based in a worshipful heart disposition. Living in intentional expression in: church community, Fellowship, the study of truth, prayer, using our gifts, and living a life of love for God and people.
- Having fun… Being present, in the moment, and spontaneous. Making time for what’s really important. Being able to stop and smell the flowers, taste the ice cream, and generally enjoy the simple things. “The best things in life are not things at all.”
- Being a Lifelong Learner… Possessing a hunger and thirst for truth, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and a compelling education. Truly being a student of life, with the intent of discovering your strengths and gifts and making application to make your world a better place.
Learning To Be In The Moment
Learning to be present or mindful is a lifelong pursuit. Intentionality and focus are all important and can lead to the skill of being present. There are things that you can do today to help. Many of the techniques involve breathing – focus on it; it’s almost guaranteed to bring you back to the moment requires no special tools or training, so it’s a perfect way to begin. Breathe deep and focus.
Try to adopt one of these ideas, even once a day – whichever one seems easiest. Once you experience being in the present, you can find you want to try other techniques to extend the feeling. Here are a few examples –
• When the phone rings, don’t jump up to answer it. Take a good, deep breath before you say hello.
• Program your computer or watch to beep once an hour. When you hear the beep, stop and take five deep breaths. You may want to stand and stretch too.
• Before getting out of bed, take five minutes to do a mental scan of your body. How does everything feel?
• Before rising in the morning, utilize your “Tabernacle Choir”. Remember all the positives of your life. Remember, rehearse, and review all the good things and grace that has been given you.
• Practice doing just one thing at a time. Stop multitasking; it will poison your soul and mind. If you’re eating, don’t watch TV or read. You will gain up to 5 extra weeks a year in lost time and productivity. If you’re walking, don’t talk; focus on a single activity.
• As you eat, take small bites and chew each one 30 times. You will discover you enjoy your food more, and it’s healthier to.
• Stop, look , and listen. Really smell the flowers, listen to people, focus your attention, and be in the process of the moment. You will be more peaceful, focused, loving, present, and engaged as well as engaging!
1. Slowing down-2. Taking deep breaths-3. Intentionally noticing your surroundings-4. Stopping, looking, and listening-5. Connecting to and communicating with those around you-6. Being present, focused, and in the moment-
Once you start developing the ability to be present at certain times of the day, you have developed a valuable skill to call on to defuse stress at any time. As with learning a sport or musical instrument, the more you practice, the more adept and you’ll become. Before you know it, you’ll be nowhere else but here. Are you here and in the moment right now?
SCOTT HAMMOND, PARENTING EXPERT,
TALKS TO IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD®
Scott Hammond (www.BecomeaBetterFather.com) is a nationally recognized parenting expert, an author of a powerful and positive life-transforming book for Fathers entitled, “Every Day Dad: The Guide To Becoming A Better Man”, husband, and father of nine children. Mr. Hammond took time from his very developing schedule to sit down and chat with IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD® about, among other things, his book, the most challenging and rewarding aspects of Fatherhood, and the mixed signals that Men are receiving about masculinity and their parental roles and responsibility.
The first thing we wanted to know was whether Mr. Hammond had received any advice about Fatherhood and, if so, from whom. Mr. Hammond told us that his Father’s relationship with him spoke volumes about parenting from a male perspective:
“Not much was said to me about Fatherhood. What I learned about Fatherhood came from my interaction with my Dad Bob who really employed relationship parenting with me in my teen years through listening to me, spending time with me, and involving me in his world.”
So, what are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of Fatherhood for Mr. Hammond, who is the co-parent of nine children?
“For me, the most rewarding aspects of being a Dad is watching my children grow and become contributing adults who love, serve, and bless others. The most challenging aspects of Fatherhood is dealing with stress, lack of sleep, and being tired at night due to the rigors of my work day while at the same time being attentive to the needs of my children. “
Are Men receiving mixed signals about masculinity and their parental roles and responsibilities?
“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Mr. Hammond.
Where are these mixed signals coming from? The media? Popular music videos, films, television situation comedies, and society?
“Mixed signals are coming from the media, popular music videos, films, television situation comedies, and society. We need safe and sane men to model our livers after, not the media’s so-called heroes who have no real life or love to offer. These folks are by and large empty, but have some talent. Character is what I look for.”
What was Mr. Hammond’s motivation for writing, “Every Day Dad: The Guide To Becoming A Better Man”? What are some of the responses his book has received?
“This book is about hope, renewal, and a Life Renaissance – bout what is possible. I wrote the book as a result of loss, death, and personal depression – all of which resulted in a personal Mid-Life Renewal and Renaissance. The deaths of my father Bob Hammond, and my friend, Dan Gunderson, caused me to think about how I live my life and what kind of legacy I am leaving behind for my children, wife, and friends. The deaths of two people very close to me made me realize the fragility and temporal nature of our existence. Life really does go by quickly and must be cherished and relished. My love for God, people, and especially parents and families has resulted in this work. It presents the possibility of incremental, practical, and a workable personal healing and change. It also presents methods for getting back on track as both a parent and as a person of value. My goal is to help people avoid a midlife crisis and, instead, have a Mid-Life Renewal and Life Renaissance – a restoration of hope. The responses to my book have been mostly great. It is being called an ‘Encyclopedia Of Fathering’ and a ‘Compendium For Parenting’.”
When asked to discuss the role that women can and should play in helping their husbands positively shape the minds and souls of our sons and daughters as they make their journey from childhood to adulthood, Mr. Hammond remarked:
“That is a nice question. Joni – my wife – and I complement each other in every way, including parenting. We complete our kids.”
Many men find that creating and implementing plans that move their families forward, holding their families together, and raising children to be a daunting task in the Millennium. Why does parenting seem difficult in the Millennium?
“Men tend to be great planners, movers, shakers, project managers, people managers, but we are often horrid at building relationships with those we love. Why is that? Men can run businesses and governments, and even societies, but we are often lacking at running a family. The family, our wife and children, often get the leftovers of our minds, bodies, and emotions at the end of the day. Several of the reasons, the issues, problems, and challenges that Men face are part of what we call modern life. For empire builders, and government runners, too many of the skills in our toolbox begin with the prefix ‘poor’:
- Poor time management skills – being too busy and not managing time well enough.
- Workaholism, perfectionism, poor skill sets with fathering.
- Poor fathering examples – no father-mentors to speak of.
Buying, owning, and maintaining too many possessions and having ‘stuff’ plus a thousand other distractions – including low-priority activities such as computers, TV, gaming, hobbies, sports, and illicit activities – all vie to drain our time, attention, and energy so that, at the end of the day, we have little enough to invest where it counts: our family. When men get stuck, they never ask for directions. How can we possibly admit weakness, vulnerability, or just being generally lost? This all makes for a very sad situation. Dads are not picking and living their priorities. Dads get lost, and they never ask for help.:
What is “Purpose Driven Parenting”?
“Successful parents are clear and spot on with what they’re trying to accomplish in training their children. Discipline and focus must balance grace and mercy. There must be a balance between grace and discipline in managing a family in raising great kids. Great parents are intentional parents. They know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Parenting also comes with the mandate to be flexible. Flexibility coupled with humor, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the ability to keep it light will help parents get through many a dark time. Training our kids through leading them by example and serving them is also a key component in that our values are usually caught not taught. This modeling of our values and walking our talk is key in setting an example for our kids to follow. As we live our values as parents, our kids are taught and catch what we are instructing by the message of our lives and example. The key is for parents to be totally focused on this key role, whilst understanding none of us are perfect – thus we need grace both on others and for ourselves as parents.”
What parenting advice do you have for Non-Custodial and Divorced Dads who only have partial custody of their children due to court-mandated custody arrangements and are unable to be physically present in their children’s lives every day?
“So, let’s talk about love and family. How does our care translate practically into an inheritance and legacy we leave behind for them? Our love for family should be a tangible, practical, actionable practice. Our everyday parenting is a practical expression of intentional love, which by its definition leaves a footprint or legacy. This can be good, bad, or ugly. For most of us, it’s a mixed bag. Preparing our kids for an inheritance is a far greater challenge than preparing an inheritance for our kids. But herein lays the challenge. I’d like to leave an inheritance for my children and to keep it for them, but I also need to keep them for it. I want to leave my children a large inheritance, but also to prepare my children for that inheritance. Acquiring and keeping an inheritance for them, but also keeping them for that inheritance is key to positive motivation. I know I must love them unconditionally, making them my priority and focus, and to accept and respect and receive my children. These are starting points for a quality inheritance for generations to come. What is the bottom line of what you want to leave behind as a parent? Is it money? Portfolios? Real estate? Stuff? Values? Faith? Ethics . . . or something much more? One route calls for a gathering of stuff and goods in a portfo0lio to give away when we’re dead. The other has to do with preparing our kids and investing in their lives by an intentional downloading of our values, ethics, spirituality, and so much more. This preparing for an inheritance of life, relationships, and everything that’s important is far greater and compelling payoff for those whom we leave behind when we pass.”
What’s next for you?
“Being a faithful man . . . doing what God is showing and calling me to do – grow my family, be a good guy and churchman, and love my wife, and leave a legacy of love.”
Tools for Successful Dads: Listening
Communication has two parts-listening and expressing yourself.
Both must occur for communication to be successful. When you listen well to family members, you encourage them to talk about what’s most important to them. It’s easy to get careless about really listening.
Listening is at least as important as talking. Everyone needs someone to listen to them-someone who supports them and allows them to openly express feelings. Sometimes a person can find a solution or discover the sources of stress just by talking. Some of us process our feelings or find ways to clarify and express our thoughts by simply talking to others. Find out which of your family members process in this way and you will have a key to unlocking their “code”.
Parents sometimes feel obligated to lecture, present solutions, and give an analysis when listening. This is not good listening. A good listener should not feel obligated to advise, analyze, or have all the answers. Listening and responding with concern and understanding may be all the help needed.
The Art of Listening
The #1 human need is psychological survival, to be understood, affirmed, validated, and appreciated. In other words, we need to be heard and understood. It isn’t always easy because we live in a busy world, and many of us spend our days in a time crunch.
But the experts agree, when we take time to listen we improve relationships, promote an atmosphere of cooperation, and encourage creative thinking. We even save money and relational problems by avoiding costly errors caused by miscommunication.
Active listening does not come naturally.
Stephen Covey notes that when someone speaks, our initial reaction is to evaluate and scrutinize them which is the opposite of what we should do. We should focus on empathetic listening with the intent to understand and we must do this with the goal of helping.
There are 4 phases of empathetic listening, according to Covey…
1. First, is to mimic content, repeating exactly what the speaker has said
2. The Second stage is to rephrase the content to what was said in your own words
3. Third, you may reflect feelings or make a non-judgmental statement about the speaker’s emotions, empathizing with what or how he feels
4. The Fourth stage is a combination of the second and third stages, to rephrase content and reflect feelings
Sometimes we don’t want to hear what’s being said, choosing to be annoyed instead of understanding the other person’s view; this only damages a relationship. We’d make a better choice by moving forward, forgiving the offense and the offender, and resolving the problem.
Listening must come from the heart. If it is not sincere it will show regardless of what we say… nonverbal gestures will expose true feelings. When this happens, make it a point to remain focused on what the speaker is saying, actively participating in and practicing the stages of empathetic listening. The art of listening lies in understanding that to be an effective parent, leader, spouse, or any other role we must not only care about what others have to say, but also how they feel. Just remember your kids need your full attention, your patience, and a listening ear. Listen well when they speak. It will make you an even better parent than you already are
True Story….Gabriel Hammond’s Birth
This is our true and heartfelt story of turning pain into passion. This is a true story of our beloved son, Gabriel Hammond.
It all started with the ultrasound at the local Mad River Community Hospital. The ultrasound revealed the possibility of Down syndrome. Gabe (our unborn son) had a one in three chance of having the condition. Did he or didn’t he? That question haunted us until Gabe’s birth.
My wife Joni was assigned a month’s bed rest and then gave birth to a mostly-healthy baby boy. Joni and Gabe were flown overnight to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where Gabriel was to have surgery to correct an intestinal blockage. After the surgery, both mother and son were fine.
The two-dollar question was did Gabriel have Down syndrome?
Meeting with the doctor, she told us that yes, Gabe did have Down syndrome and that we had less than one year left in our marriage. Her point was that parents of special-needs kids have huge marital challenges. The doctor was not very delicate in the way she told us. What a great nugget to drop on a couple in such a vulnerable time!
No one prepares you for the disappointment, loss, fear, and many of life’s potentials forfeited when you learn that you have a baby who has Down syndrome. The feelings of new parents of kids with Down run from anger to depression to frustration to resignation. It is like the six phases of grieving. It feels a bit like a death within the context of birth in that it is a death of a vision. A parental hope and dream of what could have been most likely will not be now with this new twist of having a “special need”. It is a feeling, ultimately, of being lost in a world of unpredictability and not having a map of where you are going. This is truly “uncharted water”. That feeling of fear and sense of loss will be forever ingrained in my heart and mind. We knew nothing of Down syndrome or special-needs kids. To this point, we’d had six healthy children and had never met anyone with Down syndrome or any similar disability.
As we learned that our Gabriel had Down, we really had to dig deep and see if we could find the upside of Down syndrome. But, fear ruled the day.
Who is our boy? What will he be when he grows up? Can he play football? Will he go to college? Will he be “normal”? Will he get married? Will he have children? Will he have to undergo heart surgery?
These and other questions raced through our minds as we try set about discovering who it was we were dealing with and what his needs would be going forward. The initial sense of being lost without a compass or any bearings is truly an emotion to which words cannot do justice. When advised of our Gabriel’s condition, the well-meaning but blunt doctor told us that most special-needs parents divorce within the first few years. Well, she just added to our devastation.
On a subsequent trip back to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California, years later, that sense of being lost is what I remembered the most. That sense of not knowing what to do, where to go, or who to turn to, other than God. We made the decision to learn to love and raise Gabriel and come to terms with what, or rather who, we were given.
How did we move forward? What were the metrics of measuring progress with Down Syndrome? What will Gabe’s needs be? How different will he be? How can we get help and resources? What about school?
The darkness, disbelief, and doubt that swirl around new parents, who discover their child has Down syndrome or any other life-altering disease, birth defect, or condition, are real and profoundly devastating. Not having a map or a compass to consult, not knowing which steps are needed is truly a frightening, debilitating process. Faith in God becomes paramount at the moment and going forward.
It’s a hard thing to realize and come to grips with the disappointment of a loss of a child diagnosed with something as long term and life-changing as Down syndrome. Down syndrome is not “cute” as some blithely observe. Kids with Down syndrome, while they are special, are still a challenge, especially for the parents upon first discovering their own child’s special needs.
The unknown twists and turns, trials, stress, surprises, fears, and heartbreak are all part of what it means to be a special needs parent.
The ensuing questions, heartbreak, prayer, and walks around the UC Davis campus, crying out to God, will always be etched in my memory. After days of genuine soul searching, I decided to dedicate Gabriel (and our raising him) to the Lord. Although he would never be a professional football hero or a brain surgeon, his life would be both personally fulfilling and enriching to those around him. We were ready to move on and raise our son no matter what!
The shame, embarrassment, and guilt that parents of children with special needs share is one of life’s dirty-little-secrets. Although not rational, logical, or reasonable, these feelings are very tangible.
The feelings of sadness and gloom often come at unexpected, strange times. Perception is reality. The pain is real. In addition to this we discovered Gabe had autism as well. This was a family shock to say the least. Now our son had a double challenge…so did we.
The times of reality hitting home when the Costco gawkers stared at us and our son Gabe only served to remind us of our frustration, pain, and anguish. Every so often, the reality check of Gabriel’s special needs of Down syndrome (and now, autism, as well) come crashing in on us. Gabe’s episodes of dysfunction or meltdowns pull us out of our times of denial, where we have to admit, acknowledge, and again decide to go forward as parents.
We have learned to be honest with our feelings and with each other. We’ve chosen to redeem benefits from all the pain as a couple and as a family to achieve love regardless of the “return on investment”. The lessons learned have to do with my deciding to have the right perspective, attitude, actions, and behaviors. The decision to love unconditionally is ours alone. This unconditional love, stemming from the decision to love Gabriel, has transferred some of my pain into a long-term perspective which is surprising, refreshing, and very interesting.