Today is another ‘holiday’ for many here in the United States. Across the country thousands of Fathers are being put on a pedestal to be honored and remembered.
Dads of younger children will be met with happy faces, sweet giggles squealing a “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!” greeting. Warm hugs and lots of smiles will be given. So will handmade arts and crafts, ugly ties and gift cards to sports’ events and hardware stores.
I know that the many of the Dads in our own community won’t hear their child say, “Happy Father’s Day”. They won’t receive personal gifts from their children. Their children, like my son, are incapable of understanding the meaning of today’s festivities. Our children might be able to participate in some Father’s Day activities, but it might be only because they are directed or told to do so. It’s not that our children are being rude or are dismissing the role that their devoted father, it’s that they have no understanding of the concept. The regressive nature of the autism many of our children have prevent them from that. They cannot talk. They cannot wish Dad well. And they don’t know how to partake in days set aside to honor their Dad.
Our children won’t ask Dad to meet them in the front yard to toss the football. They won’t sit next to Dad at a hometown baseball game. They won’t ask to join Dad in the garage to tinker under the hood of the car. They won’t suggest to ride bikes to the pool either. It’ll be a different type if Father’s Day for a lot of the Dads in our community. Diapers will be changed on our pre-teen children. Dietary restrictions will rule the celebration. So might another sleepless night and unpredictable self-injurious injuries.
Dads in our community, the ones who stay devoted despite disappointment, despite major struggles, despite being rerouted to a different path they now travel are the ones we wish to honor today. They are the ones who remain true to their role as father, as protector, as guide and as teacher. It may be a different sort of teaching, a different way to guide and involve protecting their child in ways they never imagined, but the role autism Dads play are important and just as valuable.
The fathers we recognize today are the ones who are committed to level a bumpy, unstable and unfamiliar road that cropped up when their child’s autism diagnosis changed their life’s plan. So, today, to the Autism Dads we know, today we honor you. We respect you. We thank you. We know it isn’t easy. We know how hard parenting can be. But we admire your strength and resolve in remaining true to your child. We wish to extend to you comfort, peace and most importantly our gratitude. Stay strong. Believe in yourself, and know that we recognize the importance of your role, and we applaud your every effort.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.