Life changes in a split second. The words are from a doctor and the news isn’t good, your child has _______. The diagnosis’ are all different but the results are the same the diseases are going to alter life as usual. In some cases the doctors don’t know specifically what a child has but there is enough evidence to know that life will not be as one envisioned.
In most cases like this men bolt. The fathers who had dreamt of playing sports with their kids, being proud of them for stellar achievements, giving their daughters away for marriage have all been crushed. When a special needs child comes into a family, men leave at an alarming rate- over 80% of the time.
I had the privilege last week to meet some men who didn’t leave. They have stayed despite the unmet expectations of life, they are not going to kids sporting events but rather they are changing their diapers. They have given up their own hopes and dreams to sit by hospital beds for days and months at a time.
These men come from all walks of life, engineers, accountants, ministry, banking industry, self-employed and many other occupations. These men are tough, yet tender, humorous, yet serious, boundless energy, yet a common tiredness.
But don’t feel sorry for these men, they have chosen to stay. They have defied the odds and have stayed with their families. They have seen and experienced precious moments of life that many of us have missed. There are small joys and unexpected happiness of raising a special needs child.
Curiosity and wonder is seen in the eyes and verbal sounds coming from these children. These fathers have patience that is seen in very few. In “normal” society there are some very uncomfortable moments and moments that defy logical happiness or fulfillment. Yet these men tirelessly serve and do what is needed to serve their children. The communication that happens between the fathers and their children is instinctual and can only be known from hours of being and spending time with one’s child.
Fear comes in a different form to these fathers. What happens if my child outlives me? Who is going to care for them? Who is going to protect and love them? The love of a father is precious and seen in so few fathers of special needs children.
This love that I saw from these dads this week was reminiscent of Jesus. A selfless love that is full of patience, kindness, and self-control. It was an honor and a privilege to observe these men in action.
Thank you- Russ, Mike, Frank, Chinglieng, John, and many others for being the dads that model Jesus not only to your kids, but to everyone who comes in contact with you.