by Misti Bushmire
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” :: Jim Valvano
As we celebrate Father’s Day, we are reminded that being a father is a special privilege no matter how you arrive there. Typically you and your spouse/partner find out you are expecting a child but sometimes you are blessed with stepchildren or you find yourself taking on a very special mentoring position. Still other families are blessed with children who have special needs.
Dad, you have a unique place in your child’s life that no one can ever replace and your actions ripple out into the future. What an awesome responsibility and an incredible gift! We want to thank you for all of the time and commitment that you put into your families every single day. Your efforts may or may not be in the headlines but they are appreciated and valued.
Let’s acknowledge just a few of the ways that you have an impact on your child’s life.
First, encouragement. No one can make you believe in yourself like your dad. There is something about your father standing behind you quietly saying “I know you can do this” that is unparalleled. I would venture to say that just about everyone who has achieved success in their field, no matter what it is or how you define success, has had the experience of someone believing in them unconditionally. You have the opportunity to be this person everyday in the life of your child. How cool is that?!
Coaching – not just for sports. Akin to encouraging but taken a step further. You help your child to identify what their talents and skills are and develop them further. Your help in identifying their weaker areas and strengthening those so that they are well-rounded and ready to meet life as an adult is invaluable. When your child makes another step forward give them a big hug, tell them how proud you are, bask in the moment for a bit before starting to work towards the next step.
Teaching. Teach your kids the things that are important to you – passing along your passions is a connection that brings you closer together. Do you have a hobby? What skills do you feel are important to have as adults? What are your favorite memories? All of these things can be modified to fit your child’s age and attention span but even with a toddler you sharing your interests and skills also creates memories. My dad enjoys woodworking and is extremely talented. From the time that I was very young some of my favorite memories are of being allowed to spend time in dad’s woodshop with him. He would work on his project and I would work on my “project”. When I was 3 or 4 my project might consist of sanding scraps to build blocks with but by the time I was 11 or 12 he was helping me to design furniture for my room and having me help build it. Just the fact that I was in the shop with him, watching and asking questions taught me a lot. I’m sure that there were days when the very LAST thing he wanted was to have me out there (I mean really, it’s not like that was his time to decompress and relax or anything, right?!) but he ignited a lifelong love of learning, designing, creating, and building. Pass it along, whatever it is. You never know where it will lead.
Involvement. Staying in touch with your kids and what is going on in their lives shows your love in a way not much else can. What do they care about? What are they interested in? Asking how their day was and then listening to the answer makes them feel “heard” – even if it’s a few minutes each day, it’s just for that child and special to them. As adults, it’s all too easy to dismiss their answers as trivial and not “important” but these little moments are what create that connection and relationship foundation that is necessary as they grow and the stakes get higher.
We definitely want to acknowledge our dads who have a special needs child, which brings its own special joys, privileges, and challenges. There are definitely challenges; I’m not going to minimize them that would be on the same level as the doctor calling labor and delivery “discomfort”! However, in the midst of those difficulties, we get to see the incredible gifts you bring – sensitivity and an awareness of others, empathy, a sense of compassion for that child, an understanding of unconditional love that impacts all of those around you. As we see these special relationships in our Honolulu office (during speech therapy homework!) and around Oahu, we see the time, patience, and perseverance your special kids teach. We treasure the gift of these children and their unique place in the world, and the parents who give their all for them. Take a moment to set aside the challenges and just enjoy your special child.
We don’t stop growing just because we’re adults. This Father’s Day, take a moment to look back at this year and then write out what YOUR goals are in being a father. It’s amazing how many things come into focus when you take the time to be intentional in planning. List the characteristics and traits that you want to develop and model for your kids, the example that you want them to have. How will you get there? How does that look in day to day life? And, ahem, you might also want to plan what you will do when you have a bad day and blow it. Modeling how to behave when we fail is just as important as showing them how to win. It’s amazing what those little eyes see and those little hearts absorb every single day. Let’s show them how to keep moving towards the goal.
Being a parent is the ultimate win-win because for everything that you give, you get back more than you can imagine. The satisfaction at the end of day of knowing that you have given them your all and the love and respect that you receive from your child(ren) is priceless.
Just as Father’s Day is an opportunity for our kids to honor their father, it’s also an opportunity as parents to cherish and appreciate our child(ren). No matter what their strengths and weaknesses, no matter their abilities or talents, no matter how “easy” or “difficult” they may be, no matter whether or not they meet expectations of what they should or should not be. Each and every one of us is unique – isn’t that amazing? We have the privilege to help them to find their place in life and reach their highest potential!
Now, let’s go spend some time with those precious kiddos and make some memories that none of us will ever forget! We would love to hear about them!