We sat around the table over mounds of onion rings and chicken wings.
White collar, blue collar, and no collar.
Two dozen dads who couldn’t be more diverse or different. Our one thing we all have in common is that we are all dads of children with special needs. Some have been on this journey for many years, others have just embarked on this path.
We talk about sports, politics, work, and life in general. For one night we set aside the challenges, trials and frustrations we all experience as special needs dads. We’re just regular guys meeting after work at a sports bar, embellishing our stories and sharing life together.
We need this outlet. We need each other. None of us are trying to escape the realities of our situation, we’re simply taking a brief break.
With men, chicken wings and BBQ are a powerful common denominator.
As we eat, the most amazing thing happens. Side conversations break out, friendships are forged, and relationships are fostered. Mentoring goes on without anyone recognizing they are being mentored.
These are my brothers in arms.
“Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve witnessed your suffering
As the battle raged high
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms”- Dire Straits
I need this night once a month. This journey as a special need dad is too hard to navigate alone. We all need community. We all crave a place where can feel safe and that we belong. A place where our life seems normal. (Normal being whatever we say it means.)
This weekend is Father’s Day. I’m grateful for my little group of dads who have embraced their calling and believe they have been chosen to be special needs dads. They inspire me as I watch them interact with their kids, and pour themselves into their children’s lives.
Warriors, protectors, providers, encouragers, and equippers.
But something else will happen this Father’s Day that isn’t inspiring or encouraging. There will be approximately 58,000 new special needs dads experience their first Father’s Day. Roughly 40,000 of them won’t be around in four years.
They’ve checked out. Cut and run.
We’re losing an entire generation of special needs dads.
If they only knew the blessing they have abandoned. If they only knew the joys they will never experience because of their selfishness.
If you want to determine the strength of a man, you measure it by the depths of his love for his family.
Our strength is most magnified by our surrender.
Our toughness is displayed through our tenderness.
Our significance is measured by our selflessness.
Our success is determined by our sacrifice.
So this piece today is for all the special needs who stuck around. Who are engaged and involved and serve their families. Who have embraced this life, accepted this calling, and are proud to be fathers of children with special needs.
Your Father’s Day will mirror your life in general. It won’t look like a typical Father’s Day. But you’re a special needs dad. For you, every day is Father’s Day.
That clapping sound you hear in the distance is all of heaven saluting you.