Dear Fellow Dad,
As we celebrate Father’s Day, during this beautiful year of Saint Joseph, I want to write to you dad to a dad. Thank you for all you do every single day for your family, especially your little ones.
For me, being a father of a child with multiple disabilities is a constant recalibrating of both my experiences with my dad, and my expectations of being a dad. I took from my dad the example of a hard-working man who valued daily meals around the table with family, the dignity of work, structure, critical thinking, and honor. Informed by my experiences with my dad and my own expectations to overcome his shortcomings, I embraced my vocation as a husband and as a father—even when I did not know what to do or say. When my youngest one was diagnosed with multiple disabilities, I asked God for guidance as I had no clue how to support, care and advocate for my child. I began the task of searching for best practices, listening to experts on disabilities, and reading anything that could shed a light. I started to pray that I might have the openness to let go of my expectations for my little one and journey with him towards new horizons.
Fellow Dad, I pray that you are always open to see the little details, take a moment to contemplate your child, and enjoy every moment that she overcomes an obstacle or when he surprises you! Celebrate all those little moments and store them in your heart. Being a dad of a child with disabilities is like a dance. We take a couple of steps forward, then one to the left, one back, one right and one forward. A dance that requires us to be attentive to the melody played by the smiles, tantrums, frustrations and achievements that our little one goes through every single day. A dance that requires a sense of laughter so we can forgive our missteps. A dance that requires loving melodic-complemented movements between dad and mom.
I remember vividly when my child was having such a difﬁcult day that I had to take him out of school. Those couple of blocks driving from the school to our home felt like hours. As I struggled to get his backpack off and help him with his self-afﬂicted behavior, I barely was able to open the door and lead him towards his safe zone in his room. After several minutes of sitting on the ﬂoor helping him calm down, he was able to stop screaming and kicking. Once calmed, I sat down in our living room and letting those prayerful tears come out I told the Lord that I was not sure I could do this. Silently in prayer, I closed my eyes and said, “Help me Lord, so I can help him. I am not sure I can do this.” I opened my eyes to the feeling of a tiny hand caressing my shoulder. It was my son who in his half pronounced words said “It’s ok Papi (daddy).”
Fellow Dad, as we celebrate Father’s day, my prayers are for all dads who are trying, failing, and trying again. Do not give up. Bring your struggles to the Lord.
Relationship with the Lord
That leads me to the Relationship with the Lord. It helps to sit still and spiritually leave that huge bag of concerns and doubts at the altar. I see it not as giving up but as offering it up. And as the candle smoke slowly departs the candle, so your thoughts and concerns can be offered and elevated to the Creator. This profound trust in our loving God is what sustains us and keeps sending us forth with a renewed sense of being sons of the Most High!
Relationship with Your Wife
As the Holy Father says, “In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated” (Amoris Laetitia, 126). Dialogue, dialogue, and dialogue. As a husband, gradually come to recognize the necessity of sharing your thoughts, fears, and dreams with your wife as you walk together. Be attentive to her thoughts and concerns. Remember that the sacred covenant of marriage will be challenged to its core. However, don’t fall into the temptation of thinking you carry the sole responsibility of parenting your shoulders or using work as an escape from them either. Let us be open to the grace of God as there are things that we might not be able to face by ourselves. Never underestimate the power of saying, “please, thank you, and sorry!” These three important words can help us to grow more deeply in love.
Take Care of Yourself
Enjoy a walk, a cup of coffee, a bike ride or a well-deserved nap. Keep a journal to contemplate God’s presence during the day. Laugh a little, forgive your shortcomings, embrace your accomplishments, take little steps forward. Through the intercession of Saint Joseph, may our Lord continue granting you strength!
Guardian of the Redeemer, pray for us.
Servant of Christ, pray for us.
Minister of Salvation, pray for us.
Support in Difﬁculties, pray for us.
Patron of Refugees, pray for us.
Patron of the Afﬂicted, pray for us.
Patron of the Poor, pray for us.
Happy Father’s Day! You are the face of our merciful God to your little ones...even when they’re not little any more.
By Peter J Ductram, MDiv., MA
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© The National Catholic Partnership on Disability 2021