Happy Father’s Day to all dads, but especially to autism dads. You work hard, and autism parenting is tough. You feel the pain and disappointment too. You face the challenges and feel the helplessness as much as (and sometimes more so) than autism moms. But you often don’t get the credit you deserve, instead taking a back seat to the autism moms. As autism stepdad Dave so eloquently writes in his TACA blog post, “autism dads are entirely powerless against their warrior mom overlords.”
But that doesn’t mean that you autism dads don’t have issues, pressures, and heartache. You are supposed to be the protector of and provider for your family. Nothing can leave you feeling lacking in those areas like autism can. But that isn’t true! You have to protect so much longer and provide so much more than a regular dad. You are doing so much every day, often without thank yous or recognition.
I want to tell you on behalf of autism moms: We really do love you. And we appreciate you. We know that we don’t always show it. But it’s not because it’s not true. It’s because we are tired. Like beyond tired. We are totally spent. Usually (but not always) we are the primary caregivers of the child with autism. And that often takes everything we’ve got. Which leaves nothing left for you. We do know that.
And for those dads working so hard so that we can be there, spending all of your money on therapies and medical treatment, health and healing, hopes and dreams – we do get it. We know that none of this would be possible without you working tireless hours, putting off your needs and dreams, sometimes even selling your soul for the sake of a child who might not even acknowledge your existence. We know it – we see you, we are just too tired to tell you.
Many dads can feel alone (because, um, guys, like, don’t talk to each other about feelings and stuff). There are some great blogs written by autism dads – I’m Simply A Dad, Autism Dad, The Autism Dad – that are worth reading regularly. And they are not just for dads – I really enjoy reading them to get that dad perspective. It’s helped me make sense of a lot of things I wasn’t always considering.
There are also some great books out there for autism dads. Not My Boy! by Rodney Peete shares Peete’s autism journey with his son R.J., offering insight and inspiration to fathers. Buzz Bissinger isn’t an autism dad, but he does have a son with special needs. His book Father’s Day takes a poignant look at fatherhood and the qualities in life that really matter during Bissinger’s summer road trip with his son Zach. Books like these can really help dads get in touch with their emotions about autism and come to terms with the challenges (and joys!) of a different kind of life and fatherhood.
Autism dads, you might not get to experience the typical joys of fatherhood – the winning hit, driving lessons, that first date. But your fatherhood is so much more meaningful to the life of your child. And we really do love you!
Happy Father’s Day!