I don’t know how other fathers of special needs kids feel about Father’s Day, but for me it has a strange aura around it. There are none of the typical celebratory activities. No father-son ball games or fishing trips. No congratulations phone calls. No hand-made cards or gifts. My wife signs his name to a card thanking me for being a good father. and there are some gifts and a card from her. But that’s about the extent of it.
Long ago I accepted that I would never celebrate sports or academic achievements with him. There would be no band recitals. No spelling bees. No college graduation. No wedding and no grandchildren. I sometimes miss all those things that never took place. Not much, but a little.
I learned to be happy if I could elicit a smile on occasion. I enjoy taking him with me to do the grocery shopping, where he likes pushing the cart. I reward him with Bud’s Best cookies that he gobbles down eagerly. Though he doesn’t smile much, he always seems to know when it’s time to go and is eager to get his shoes on and head to the car.
What I wonder the most on Father’s Day is whether he feels appreciation. For the baths and hygiene that I perform for him. For the meals prepared and spoon fed to him. For the diapers changed. Does he appreciate how much I worry when his day-hab program van is late bringing him home. Does he appreciate all the times I’ve been drooled on, snotted on, peed on, pooped on, and puked on in the course of care giving for these many years?
Maybe he does, but probably not. Can any 18-month old understand and appreciate what a parent does or sacrifices? and it really doesn’t matter. All that is simply the degree of responsibility I accept regardless of how much, or little, it’s appreciated. A perpetual responsibility that every parent-care giver understands and shoulders. I don’t do it to receive appreciation. I do it because I’m his dad.
So Father’s Day is strange for me. It’s mostly a time for me and my wife to appreciate my love for him and my care-giving activities. and ultimately, that’s enough.