Friday, June 15, 2012

Daddy, Daddy!

You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" (Galatians 4:6, MSG)

When husbands become fathers of children with special needs, it affects them in deep, deep ways that are different from the ways it affects mothers.  My own husband has helped me understand that over the past 12 years.  And tenderness to a father's needs is as key in offering comfort to a family as it is to a mother's.

Some ways that fathers differ in their struggle includes:
  • Men are "fixers" who feel compelled to solve problems.  Special needs parenting can be tough in this regard because dads can't necessarily make a disorder go away or eliminate behaviors.
  • Men feel a heavy burden to be the provider for the family.  Most fathers feel immense stress because they feel responsible to earn enough money to not only provide the requirements of basic living, but also cover the costs of treating their child's disease.  If a situation arises, as so often does in this economy, where a man finds himself between jobs, the added stress of insurance needs for the family weighs very much on his mind.
  • Men tend to compartmentalize, so accomplishing other tasks at home while still helping to manage their child's special needs can be tricky.  Supervising to avoid risky behaviors, medicating on a timely basis, or keeping kids on their routine can be difficult for a father while trying to also get yard work or home maintenance done.
  • Men don't get a break after coming home from an outside job.  While the expectation of a father might be that of getting some down time after a hard days work, special needs fathers often have to jump right in to help the minute they are in the door.  This can create some serious friction in marriage.  Mothers who have been home all day without a break see their spouse's return home as the relief they finally need.  Conversely, the father may need a little time for reentry.
  • Men are typically not the primary caregiver in the home.  This can create a difficult situation in that the father hasn't necessarily heard information from doctors or therapists first hand.  It can be hard to fully grasp the seriousness of a situation or how important a certain type of treatment is when those issues are translated through another person.
These are only some of the unique challenges expressed to me by both my husband and other fathers of children with special needs.  They are tough, but they are not without hope. 

When children are crying out, "Daddy!  Daddy!" to a stressed out father, there are ways to find relief.  One of the most important is that wives be sensitive to the fact that their husbands have needs too.  Mutual compassion and understanding is essential in this type of marriage.  Since guys relate very differently from women, it is also essential that they have other guys who have the same struggles with whom to connect.  Small groups, sports, building projects and other social events are a great way for men to work side-by-side and feel acceptance.

However, probably the most important way fathers can get the help they need in raising a child with special needs is through their own "Abba" (an affectionate name Jewish children called their fathers) or "Daddy".    As today's passage states, when men receive into their lives that salvation which only Jesus offers, the Holy Spirit is in them, helping them to reach up to the Father of all mankind.  Through that relationship, an unmatchable intimacy is offered where men don't always have to be the strong one.  They can begin to move in the strength of their Heavenly Daddy.  They can come to Him with their greatest concerns and shortcomings, receiving help where they need it.  They can gain an eternal perspective, which lightens the heaviness of all that is required of them in this life.

While my own husband is a good daddy, I know he wrestles with many challenges every day.  Yet, our family is kept together and our ability to laugh through it all remains because he has an "Abba, Father" on whom he relies.  Foster an intimate relationship with the Daddy of all today, and enjoy that same help for your own family!

PRAY:  Yahweh, who can be a Father like you?  You give us good gifts and grow us up in wise ways.  Help me to fully rely on You as a parent today!

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