With Father’s Day coming up next Sunday 2 September in Australia, a good friend invited my hubby to speak at her MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group in South Perth about being a dad. I have heard my husband talk before in various group settings about fathering, and I am always moved and inspired to hear his story.
When our son was diagnosed we both knew less than nothing about autism. I mean really just zero. Then the day arrived when we did need to know. From that moment I started to learn, read and research. I went into ‘action mode’. My husband took longer than me to come to terms with all the changes. Initially I felt annoyed that he had not dedicated himself the way I had done. My hubby did not like going to therapy appointments, he did not like reading books about autism or looking at therapy articles online. He was not impressed at my efforts to engage my son in pretend play with dolls, and told me flat out he would not be doing beading activities under any circumstances! In seems funny now, but there were some tense moments.
Things did ‘click’ into place for my hubby however in his own time, and I am pretty sure it coincided with me ceasing to nag. I gave up feeling ‘ticked off’ that he wasn’t bringing what I could bring to the table, and tried to focus on the good things that he was doing. It was about four months after diagnosis that I noticed my husband had a special talent. He was able to engage our son, and could make him laugh. In autism terms ‘engagement’, also known as ‘joint attention’ or ‘shared attention’, was no mean feat in relation to our son in those early days. I would crawl around on the floor for hours on end after my son trying to get him to ‘see’ me, and I would be lucky to get maybe get one or two quick glances in my direction. My hubby on the other hand was having more success at this than me. Whenever my hubby succeeded in making my son laugh I had a feeling this was a very good thing for my son to be doing! So in a light bulb moment I got my husband to do more ‘engaging’.
Things just seemed to build from there. Whatever my husband was passionate about my son seemed to like too. My hubby was fun, and seemed to genuinely believe that my son was having a great life and would have a great life. My husband prayed for my son at bed times in the most beautiful and gentle way. He would tell our toddler, ‘You will grow up to be man of empathy, you will have a heart for the down trodden in this world and you will be a leader and a man of integrity.’
That was my husband’s contribution to fathering a young child who had some complex needs and challenges relating to the autism diagnosis. He called it ‘the gift of connect’. He spent incalculable number of hours connecting with our child. He also went to his job every day, he had a genuine faith and positivity, and he made my son laugh. So I stopped trying to get him to be me. I was good at accessing therapists, going to all the appointments, reading autism books, researching online, and finding and maximizing all available resources. I had brought what I had to the table, and so had he. Our contributions to raising our child were different but equally significant.
To all the Dad’s I would like to wish you a ‘Happy Father’s Day!’ for next Sunday 2nd September…
To my son’s dad, thank you for all you do for our child. I will be forever grateful xx