As I rewind a bit and look back, I can’t help but wonder – why was I so concerned about being a dad. I mean how hard could it be, right?
Yeah, there’s the whole disability thing. The obvious limitations that comes with being a chair user plus, the demands of parenting, are fairly big obstacles. Yet, three daughters and 14 years later, I’ve survived.
You see, the biggest thing to embrace is that those little darlings don’t see what you see. They don’t see the chair, the prosthetic, the adaptive devices… They see you! Once you allow that to sink in, it becomes a natural part of the experience.
Take playtime for instance. My chair served as a built in jungle gym used to climb, ride and explore. Obviously, they outgrow the fascination but, those first few years of bonding with me, through my chair, was invaluable.
One of my bigger anxieties as a dad with a disability was being father of athletic kids. I love sports, I believe in the values of competition and sportsmanship but, feared that my limitations would mar the experience for them.
However, as I mentioned earlier, they don’t see the limitations. What they see is effort, support and presence. Coming up with creative ways to teach a skill takes time, coaching on the field takes a bold attitude, sitting through hours of lessons expends physical health… and I wouldn’t trade any of that for the ability to throw, catch, or even high five.
Then there’s the voice… oh, thank God for the voice. I often feared that these girls would figure out that they could get away with murder. I mean really, how would I stop them?!
Fortunately, a level of respect was established and the use of a stern and direct voice works.
Fast forward to today – Two teenage girls and a 9 year old later – the DadAbility is still in full effect. Some of the challenges have grown but, they still see me… their dad.
What are some of your anxieties about being a dad? As a dad, what are some of the strategies that have worked or not worked?