Friday, April 19, 2013

"It's a Miracle Children Survive In Spite of Their Fathers!"

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber
~ Psalm 121:3, NIV ~

I am half a nation away from my children right now, speaking at a conference.  As I prepare to board an airplane and leave my home, I always spend some time giggling with friends at the impending doom that will surely descend upon my family.  I share with them the copious stories that I receive upon arriving home when I have been out of town.  For instance, after returning from one of my journeys, a neighbor queried, "Were you gone, because I saw your kids dancing on top of the roof of your van?"  Or there was the other time that the kids called me telling me that Dad had taken them to the Thursday Celtic music circle at the local Irish Pub.  Whatever the activity, I joke with my husband that "It's a miracle children survive in spite of their fathers!"

After all, my husband prides himself on providing the risky fun factor that kids love.  Never mind that he skied into a tree with our eldest on his back when she was one year old, this guy knows how to have a good time!  Without my husband, my children would never know the joy of the water balloon slingshot, Nerf gun battles, Airsoft target practice, crazy roller skating (VERY unsafe for a boy with hemophilia), running our dog next to a golf cart at full throttle, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, tactical laser tag, and creating myriad disgusting food combinations.  In other words, their lives would be bland, and they would never have the opportunity to see me smiling while shaking my head.

While it is true that my husband is a 58 year old locked in a boys body in many ways, he is also a remarkable man without whom many of life's most memorable moments could ever occur.  He was there to guide each of our three children through learning to ride a bike without training wheels.  I can only leave town because he takes turns with home medical care, and he is able to put an IV in our son in my absence and dose our daughter with the 4 or 5 medicines it takes for her just to breathe on any given day.  When I am utterly exhausted after days at the hospital, clinic or school IEP meetings, he's there to share the load.  And ironically, he can have a wonderful conversation in German with the children at the dinner table despite the fact that I am the clueless parent traveling with our son to German immersion camp next month.

What I am getting at is that we mothers can often hold onto our children too tightly, expecting our husbands to care for them in the exact same manner that we do.  There's a wrong way, and then there's our way.  We have an entire method and logic to doing much of what we do as mothers of kids with special needs that leaves no room for any other style or routine.

Actually, that is tremendously faulty thinking.  While there are certain non-negotiables (In our house it's sterile procedure for administering an IV), our spouses can offer great color to our kids' lives by approaching things differently from the way we mothers would.  Dads can stretch our kids beyond their comfort zones in a jovial way that we mothers often miss.  They tend to be less overprotective and allow our kids to take flight in spite of their challenges.

Even when we  are a single parent, an engaged father can offer an important new dimension to the life of our child with special needs.  I know of one mother who actually left her spouse for serious valid reasons.  Yet, he made such a huge difference in their son's life because he was committed to participating in Scouting with him.  Another mother I serve found her frustrations assuaged by her ex-husband motivating their special needs teen to engage in meaningful employment.

Both parents have something to bring to the table in raising children.  And when both a mother and father can be involved, we need to each be given some room to share our unique gifts with our children.

I am so grateful for my wacky, hardworking, dedicated husband.  He now brags telling people of my phrase, "It's a miracle that children survive in spite of their fathers."  To him, it indicates that he is doing something right as a dad.  The rich experience and blossoming character of our 3 children certainly testify to the fact that he is indeed.

PRAY:  Lord, I know my spouse doesn't always view things the way I do when it comes to activities with our child(ren).  Guide us to come to common ground on the fact that a well-adjusted child needs each of our unique gifts to thrive as they grow.  And above all, keep our child(ren) safe!  

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