Friday, January 9, 2015

Take a Break and Breathe

If you're like me, and you feel like you should be in constant motion with your kids to feel like a good dad, let's just to cut to the quick and call that what it is; perhaps the single best way to lose your mind. It's true, dads have a job of being involved, giving positive attention, guidance, and (yes, the big one) discipline, but don't let these fool you into thinking that every waking moment must be consumed in attending to children. I will not dispute the gravity of these jobs, that they are all necessary, and require boat loads of time. I will make the case, however, that in order to succeed in doing these jobs, dads need to breathe. 

What I'm after in this post is NOT to build an argument for men to leave their wives high and dry at any given moment. DON'T DO THAT. Rather, I'm suggesting a meaningful conversation about taking two to three hours at agreed, scheduled times that give dads the needed moments to destress and moms the predictability of how you will help and be in the moment when home. I would further venture to state that dads should be willing to provide moms with the same arrangement. In this way, married couples can combat the extreme challenges of raising children (especially special needs children) while holding on to a few moments of peace.
My wife and I have been using this approach for many months, and I can see the relief it has brought the both of us. 

Don't be afraid of taking a break. It doesn't make you weak. In fact, refusing to take a break WILL make you weak. Breathe. Rest. Recharge.

"A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones." -Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Love You Daddy

Love is hard thing. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking it's easy to understand, because to do so, you have conquer self-centeredness. That sounds simple on the surface, but it goes much deeper than hairline interactions.

"I love my wife. I love my kids." 

When I make these statements, it means that I value the well being of my family above myself. To look up "Love" in a dictionary (Ref - would show something like the following:

a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for parent, child, or friend.
3.    sexual passion or desire."

These are all awkwardly shallow definitions, because they do not get to the root of the meaning. It's more than "affection", because "affection" is limited by emotion. It's deeper than a "warm personal attachment", as personal attachments can be easily severed with new interests. It surpasses "sexual passion or desire", because sex is not always an expression of selflessness, nor applicable to all ages. 

So what is love? It is universal among babies, toddlers, preteens, teens, adults, and elders. It is GOOD. It is HARD. Do you want the best written definition ever given? You won't find it in a dictionary. Here it is:

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." -John 15:13

This is extremely difficult, especially when I try to apply this meaning to my special needs children, who seemingly go out of their way to make my life difficult. I greatly desire to know the love of my kids, but in the mind of my autistic son, love is not something he can say to me. I listen for it, but I know I will not hear the words "I love you, Daddy", because to him, this is only a statement that will not elicit a result he is looking for. He does not enjoy hugs. Being "confined" makes him over anxious. He does not understand me when I say, "I love you." Therefore, I must show him in my actions. Within the tone of my voice. In patience. Where words and physical touch fail, it comes from an unexpected place. Play time. Yes, you read correctly. It is in the positive play that my sensory-seeking, dairy intolerant, autistic boy begins to understand that I value him. He can understand that I am putting aside my goals for the moment, to communicate he is important. He can comprehend that I delight in him, because I accept his invitation to his world to become immersed and directly exposed to his joys, hurts, and dreams. There is love. Do I always enjoy it? I'll be honest; no. Some days it is downright exhausting and physically bruising (The cartilage in my nose has been broken and a tooth chipped because my son doesn't recognize when he causes pain). But it is in this world of his that he "tells" me, "I love you, Daddy". Don't get down on yourself if you feel discouraged. This is the true test of conquering self, and it's hard, hard, HARD! Remember special needs children want to love and be loved, just like any child. Having challenges in how their brains process information doesn't remove the visceral need to know love. To specifically know your love. Hang strong. Don't give up. God has a blessed future for your children. I'm proud of you and I believe you can make it!

  "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -1 Corinthians 13:13

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Patience is Still a Virtue

I prayed and debated a bit as to what would be the first "official" post coming out of the gate. The "first" post was technically an "About Me", so I don't count that one. Where to begin? One word came to mind. Patience. Patience for the stubborn defiance. The midnight poop smears and bed wettings. The slow progress of working with special needs (complete melt downs for reasons that make little sense). Patience with my wife. The lovable scatteredness that she faces within herself (ADD) and works hard to overcome. The inability to understand my reactions. Patience.

I love my wife and my kids deeply. I want to be the protector and promoter of this family. I want each to be enabled to accomplish their God-given purpose. As a man, my efforts must begin with patience, because my logical brain simply can't comprehend each perspective. I don't understand why, if my kids "sit too close", this causes an earth shattering problem in their minds. I can't yet fathom why the juice is left out on the counter, without intention of further use. But I will continue to try. Patience.

If you're attempting to raise an autistic child, then you already understand that it doesn't take more than fleeting moment to completely break the world in his mind. My son feels threatened if he is placed in a situation that he cannot control. This would include 99 percent of most learning experiences. While he is high-functioning, he cannot think dynamically. It makes no difference to him what reaction his speech or actions invoke, so long as he receives a predictable answer that suits his expectation. On the flip side, he is an amazing problem solver, with incredible endurance for an engaging task. As a dad, it's my job to help my son understand he is valuable and capable of great things. It's my job as man of the house to speak to the desires of his heart and encourage him to become something more. To teach my son how to communicate and think dynamically. For him to know beyond a doubt that he is loved and capable of giving love. For him to conquer the world in Jesus name. It will take great patience, with slow and steady steps.

If you're married to an ADD spouse, then it's already clear that organization doesn't come naturally. My wife struggles with managing the house and keeping up with all the responsibilities of caring for children. This is not at all because she is lazy, but because there is a strong tendency to become distracted or easily overwhelmed, with the need to find another lessor task. I give my wife great credit in that she understands the challenges, and knows that the day will bring endless demands of our kids, yet she rises every morning and begins again. She has an incredible ability to research and has found many sources of guidance for working with our kids. It's my job as a husband to work alongside her and speak love in a way that she will understand. Some days this is acts of service. Some days it's words of affirmation. Some days it's an extra cookie I managed to secure and save all day just for her. As a man, I gave her my word that I would cherish her, and as a man of honor, I will see that promise fulfilled. Even though the needs change, sometimes daily, it is patience that keeps things together, with the promise that my desire is for us to win.

It's not enough for the wife or mother of your children to exercise this patience. It has to come from us. The men. Because at the end of the day, children find their identity in us. Who else will show them how to stick with life, even when the finances aren't enough, life-threatening diseases surface, or jobs suddenly fold? Who else will show them how to believe that God knows what He's doing? Who else will help them understand the love of the Father, unless we have patience to communicate it? We are men. Fathers. Husbands. Heads of the house. We must have patience to begin. Our wives need to know we are with them and on the same team. Listening. Acting. Doing (not controlling) in moderation. Our wives need the assurance that a difficult path won't cause us to break. Won't cause us to withdraw love or seclude ourselves. Because the road IS long. But it IS winnable. Hang in there.

Struggling with patience? Pray, pray, pray. Remember, God blessed you with a family. He will not leave you incapable of fulfilling the role He gave you as the head of the family.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23a

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Introductions Seem Appropriate

One could argue that there are plenty of blogs out there offering free advice on how to parent, have a successful marriage, etc. So the question is, why does this one exist? What makes this one any more or less helpful? Why should anyone spend even a few seconds skimming the surface content?

To begin, I'm 33, a father of three (soon to be four) children, and a husband, married for eight years. Two of my children are considered "special needs", with a mix of ADD, Asperger's, and speech delays. My wife also has challenges of ADD. To be honest, this blog is just as much for me as for anyone else out there. Sometimes, a good "brain dump" is helpful and, in a sense, restful. 

The take away from the writings to follow is not a sob story. My goal is to inspire the husbands and dads who face the same struggles and to realize there is still hope and the day-to-day drags are winnable. There are many blogs and support groups out there for moms and I know they need them. What I don't see much of, is the same for men, who face different struggles. Moms will always win the gold medal in raising children. While we (men of the house) are away at work, there are ten hours of considerable energy burning for moms taking care of little, demanding people. Having declared such, I would like to note that just because we men disappear to work and be providers, does not suggest we are not carrying a heavy load ourselves. There is a mountain atop our backs, consisting of the stress of keeping a job, "being there" for our kids and wives, ensuring that our families have a safe and reliable home, instilling value in our kids, affirming our marriage, etc.etc. etc. It is this mountain that I will be writing of.

How do you "win" at being a husband and father when the burdens seem to outweigh the benefits? Start with prayer. I will shamelessly admit that I'm a Christian and believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Without Him, my family and I would be dead spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Don't take this mean that my life is perfect, that all my kids consistently obey, and my marriage is "microscope" flawless. I'm still human, prone to mistakes. Lots of mistakes. That's why I need Jesus so desperately, because my strength, my grace, my fortitude fails me. Constantly. But Jesus has the power, love, and mercy to forgive and let us try again. His strength, grace, and fortitude never fail. 

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." - John 14:27

The posts to come will sound very different, and will include all the gritty details of life as it happens. I do hope you enjoy these writings and that it helps others to bear the daily burden.

Thanks for reading,