Summer Dreams
Why Father’s Day is Mother's Day for This Autism Dad

Special Forces Father

Dara and familyBy Dara Berger

My husband is no where near perfect, but one thing I can say is he is an amazing father and sometimes it actually takes my breath away.

On most days I find myself barking at my husband for all the things that he hasn't done yet, should do or still needs to do.  But in truth, deep down inside, I think he's the most wonderful husband in the world.  Words could never accurately express how I feel.  He belongs to aspecial elite class of fathers the way that we have a select group of soldiers assigned to special forces.  

Yes we nip at each other every day the way a puppy tries to play.  And of course he does so many things wrong in a day or says the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But at the end of the day, I know I am so lucky to have him not only as my husband but especially as a father to my children.  I know he will never abandon us, nor mistreat us. Many days in my household can be a challenge to say the least, but we both join together and deal with what comes our way with as much grace as we can muster.  

It was funny the other night my husband and I were out to dinner with his lovely cousin who was telling us all about how wonderful life is for him since he retired.  He went on and on about how much he and his wife are traveling throughout Europe and enjoying spending extended periods of time with their grandkids.  He explained that his son and daughter in-law will go away for a week somewhere exotic when they come to visit and take care of their kids.  Next he started telling us how we should travel a lot more, get away and relax. 

I have to admit even with my second vodka and OJ, I was feeling immense angst inside listening to all of this.  And I really felt that sometime in the next few minutes I was going to pop up and run from this beautiful restaurant bar that had a gorgeous view of Central Park.  I just couldn’t take listening to someone’s life that sounded like a fairytale.  But instead I decided to give him a little truth bomb of what it's like to be a parent of a child with autism and pandas and how I can’t just decide to travel a lot and relax.  I explained to him that we can't just go away and we don't have anybody that can watch our kids that can actually handle Dylan with everything that goes with a child that suffers immensely from pandas and autism.  He was quiet as I went on and on about how Dylan is not doing well lately and has been behavioural at school.  I went into great detail about how hard I'm trying to baseline him and get him back to his normal self, which is still a challenging state to be in with autism and pandas.  He listened intently and got that I'm not ever going to be able to live the fairytale life that he's got in front of him, since he retired and gets to travel so much.  My husband looked at me like a dear in the headlights as this conversation went down, but for me it was my only choice.  It was either drink heavily and somewhat make it through the evening (maybe resulting in getting too drunk and vomiting), flee the bar or just set someone straight on what it’s like to raise a child with vaccine injury, otherwise known as autism.

I think my hope was that he could be more sensitive and every time we go out not tell me about how glorious and glamorous his life is and how I should try to travel more when in fact I just can’t.  I am not someone who pretends.  There are many aspects about my life that just suck and there's nothing I can do about it, except put a smile on my face and say I'm doing the best I can. I am raising two beautiful little human beings and I thank god for the privilege I was given to have these two children in my life.  And as hard as it is at times, I would not trade my life for anyone else’s.  No way!!!

My husband and I left dinner that night and we laughed about what happened and he said to me “ o you think you could've laid it on any thicker to him".  I said it was important for him to know this is what our life is and saying comments off the cuff about how we need to get away more, relax, and travel is just not a realistic thing that you should necessarily say to a parent of a child with autism, that is killing themselves each day just to raise and try to recover them, unless you’re going to pack your bags and get over to my house and do the one hundred items on our to do list every day to take care of my kids.

We continued to laugh about what just took place but then went into hysterics when my husband said "did you need to go on and on about how I make a seven course breakfast each morning”. He said I felt like Diane Keaton in that movie Somethings Gotta Give where Francis McDormand talks about her single sister who is alone at home night after night after night after night and Diane Keaton replies "could you just have left it at one night that I'm home.  Did you have to say night after night after night?". My husband says couldn't you just say he makes breakfast for the kids every morning.  Did you have to go into the bacon, the fresh chicken nuggets, making everyone fresh juice and cleaning the juicer and on and on.  Well we were doubled over for about five minutes on Columbus Avenue somewhere in the 70s and literally couldn't stop laughing and get ourselves to walk home.

Luckily for us these moments happen often that we can just laugh at the irony of how hard our life is despite how hard we work and try to get one step ahead.  

Look I'm not gonna lie and say that I don't look back some days and wish I could be that young girl who only cared about dressing fabulous for her really handsome and wonderful husband. I miss the fact that we were the fun party couple that always found a way to create an excuse for us to meet 10 of our friends out to dinner or host a super partiy with all of our friends at our house or in some trendy restaurant.   But we have morphed into something way more meaningful and more beautiful.  

I always knew my husband was supportive, extremely generous and a solid person that would stand by me through tough times.  This journey with my son through vaccine injury, autism and pandas have let me see that same man times a thousand.  Mark has taken his best attributes and amplified them and even shined a few that I never knew he had like extreme patience (prerequisite for making it through with a child that has autism).  

My husband always puts his family first.

He plays with the kids no matter how hard the day has beaten him down.

He is my copilot even when he can’t be in two places at the same time.  He always chooses family.

He is a beautiful friend with endless support.

A husband that stands by me through thick and thin.

A father who’s love has no boundaries.

And did I mention he is a wonderful cook (we’ll leave out the 7 course breakfast he can make!).

He is a special forces father.

Most all of the special forces fathers that I have met in my life have been dad’s of a child with autism.

Unfortunately autism is a very special type of training that will either break you or bring out the best in you.

No matter how you fair, in my opinion if you can just get through it with your mind and life in tact, then you are a special forces father.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Special Forces Father’s!!!

Dara Berger is the author of the book titled How to Prevent Autism. She is also a documentary filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary film about how to prevent autism, which is based on her book. Dara recently completed the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach certificate program, which she hopes to use to help other families prevent chronic illness and autism in their children.


Dara Berger

Author and Documentary Filmmaker

Book: How to Prevent Autism


Carolyn KylesMom CA

whoops, typo--should say "stepdad" wherever it says "step" someone auto correct put in stepdaughter!

Carolyn KylesMom CA

I am no longer with my son's biological father, but he has him every other week. The thing he did that I have most been grateful for, is that the trusted the research I found about autism, and supported every biomedical intervention we tried. I have met so many couples where one parentgets that autism is biomedical, and the other sabotages all the efforts. I believe that because of my ex-husband's support, the stage was set for our son's near-recovery. But the story doesn't end there. After my son's Dad decided he just didn't want to be married any more, I was blessed to meet a wonderful man who married me and took on his autistic stepson --at my age of 46! And I feel that because of him, our son is now mainstreamed. I was so happy K could sit UNDER the table at the restaurant, so that we could finally go out to eat, that I didn't work with him to get him to sit at the table, until his stepdad, who saw the potential, not the past, gently pushed and pushed. I was so happy when K could go to school without getting so hyper I had to pick him up at noon, that I didn't work with him to learn, until his stepdaughter, who saw K's brilliance, not his behaviors, encouraged me to fight for more in his IEP meetings, which he attended. I was so happy when K went into church even though he jumped from pew to pew, that I shut down and didn't even try to stop him. I didn't know how to fix it, and I was shut down after 24 hours of correction. I needed the break. His stepdad gently explained to K how to behave, modeled how to behave, endured the stares and the embarrassment with me, and within 2 years, K was baptized into the Catholic church--which involved water being poured on his head and answering prayers!

Jeannette Bishop

Happy Father's Day to all our amazing autism dads and granddads, and all our wonderful warriors working to make the world a safer, healthier, happier place for all children!

Shelley Tzorfas

Special Forces Fathers? Actually it is Fathers Being Forced into Special Education & Care taking. Thank you Dara.

Granny Blue

Happy Father's Day to all the Special Forces Fathers and all those Special Forces GRANDFATHERS out there, like my husband who, at 82, spends time each day providing support to our adult grandson with autism who lives with us!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)