Being a father is one of the greatest things I have ever done. Being the father of a child with autism is even greater, and I love every minute of it. I remember holding my son in my arms just minutes after he was born when he first looked up at me. It was at that point when I realized just how important my role as a father would be, and everything I did as a father would be based off one word: love.
I remember getting his diagnosis paperwork in the mail. I remember staring at it and wishing those words off the paper. I was then faced with a decision. I could just learn to deal with my son’s autism, or I could take a stand and do something about it. One of the first things I read was Jenny McCarthy’s book Louder Than Words, and the words that jumped out at me the most were “hope” and “recovery.” I read further, researched, and came across websites that detailed biomedical protocols for the treatment of autism. The more I read, the more I discovered that these children can and do get better, and I completely resolved to do this for my son. I remembered back to the day of his birth and vowing to give him the life he deserved. I didn’t care about what the costs may be. I loved my son far too much to give him any less.
Being the father of a child with autism can be an emotional roller coaster, and I am never afraid to shed a few tears or tell him that I love him, even if it is in public. I know there’s a notion out there about “man points,” but those points mean nothing to me if both my sons don’t know that I love them. “Man points” would mean nothing to me if my son was still as severely affected as he once was. These children feed off emotions, and I want to give my two little boys as much as I can.
Getting words from my son with autism was emotionally difficult at first, to say the least. It was the tears rolling, screaming inside your head, wanting to bury your face in the couch type of frustration. Then the words started coming at a pace that was hard to keep up with. Of all the words I’ve taught him and the countless hours it took to do it, there was one day in particular I remember as my greatest accomplishment with him. It was the day when he looked me right in the eyes and uttered the words, “I love you, Daddy.”
I sometimes hear people talk about the sacrifices that a father (and mother) must make for their children. In my opinion, I don’t think of any of it as a sacrifice because what I am getting in return is far greater than what I had or could have had. I mean, sure, I could have a bigger house, nicer cars, or more “toys,” but none of that would mean anything to me if my older son was still stuck in his autistic “shell.” Instead, I got a really big hammer, obliterated that shell, and brought my son out.
As a father (or even before I became one), I never want my two sons to grow up not really knowing the type of person I am or what I stand for. More importantly, I’ve always had the deep desire for my children to know they have a daddy who loves them and would do anything for them. I never wanted my son (who has nearly recovered from autism) to think or ask the question, “Why didn’t Daddy help me get better?”
Any credit or compliment I receive as a father, I give to my two little boys. They make it so easy to be a good father, autism and all. They make it so easy for me to love them through all the silliness and laughter, even the craziness and chaos! They’ve taught me an entirely new aspect of how to be a loving, compassionate, and accepting person (and daddy), and I owe all my qualities as a father to the both of them.
So what does Father’s Day mean to me? I like it because it gives me yet another reason to love my two little boys. I have this dream inside my head about what the most picturesque Father’s Day would be like, so here it goes. My two little boys would get up and crawl into bed with me and my wife, and we would just lay there for awhile. We would then get up, and I would watch them make a complete mess of themselves during breakfast. Then, it would be off to the city park for barrel rolls down the hill until they were covered with dirt and grass. We’d get cleaned up, have lunch and ice cream cones (GFCF of course), and settle into the couch for their favorite movie. After that, we’d have an early dinner and head off for a fun-filled evening at our local children’s museum. When we’d get back home, I’d help them get ready for bed, read books to them, tuck them in, and watch them as they slowly drift off to sleep.
*Cody, Jolene, Harrison (7) and his little brother, Isaac.