Parenthood, at least for me, has been a series of stumbles and progressions. Some calculated, some not, but all of them a lesson in perseverance and humility. Perhaps the most humbling moment I’ve experienced yet as a parent was the day I realized I wasn’t going to be the dad I’d hoped I would be.
Not even close.
This had little to do with me being a special needs parent and everything to do with me being an honest one. Actually, let me rephrase that… it had everything to do with me being a realistic one. That’s not to say I’m inherently a liar or wildly delusional or something; it’s just that I, like many new parents, chose to believe in the best version of myself right out of the gate. Which, while admirable, isn’t always attainable and only served to show me the parent I thought I should be and not the parent I knew I should be. There’s a fundamental difference there that needed to be addressed. So, as I often do when I need to work things out on my own, I made a list (one of my more spectrummy guilty pleasures). It’s a list of parenting truths that, while not revolutionary, will hopefully provide me (and maybe even you) with some perspective as I continue down the road of daddyhood.
*To give credit where it’s due, this list was actually inspired by another daddy blogger, Jerry Turning, over at Bacon and Juice Boxes (his blog is fantastic, by the way). His list was short, sweet and wonderfully honest. I only hope mine will be half as compelling.
Lie: The world will reveal itself as a nasty, dangerous place full of ugly things and people, and I will protect you from it all.
Truth: You’ll learn the world is not that scary. I promise to protect you from the worst it has to offer, but you will experience adversity, and I’ll do my best to help you get through it.
Lie: I’ll make sure you never get bullied or taken advantage of.
Truth: You’ll probably get bullied. At least once. Maybe more. It’ll suck. But I will be there to comfort you and dry your tears. Then I will promptly address the matter.
Lie: I will make sure you grow up in a world of tolerance, understanding and acceptance.
Truth: You’re wired differently. Not everyone is going to accept that, let alone understand it. I won’t force them to. But I also won’t let you be ashamed of it. Ever.
Lie: I’ll hold your hand every step of the way and will always be there to catch you when you fall.
Truth: My hands will be full from time to time… maybe with your brother, maybe with your mom, maybe with groceries and maybe with life. But I promise to hold yours as much as I possibly can. Likewise, there will be times when you fall and I won’t be there to catch you. You will be mad at me, maybe you’ll even resent me, but if I don’t ever let you fall, you will never learn how to get up.
Lie: I will always say the right things.
Truth: I’m not a robot, your mother or the Internet. I will say a lot of wrong things over the course of your life. But I will always try my best to correct them and learn from them.
Lie: You can do no wrong in my eyes.
Truth: You’ll do some wrong in my eyes, maybe even a lot, but it will be my job to help you learn from it. Even if it takes a couple of tries.
Lie: I will support every ambition, aspiration and dream you have in life.
Truth: Maybe your dream is to build a jail cell for your brother. I won’t support that. But I will always be your biggest fan. Always.
Lie: You must be so lucky to have a dad who does ABA therapy for a living.
Truth: Those are clients. That’s my job. I do that for a living. You are my son. I am a parent. I do that for life. The line between behaviorist and dad is constantly blurred, and while I’m still learning to wear both hats, I will always be your dad first. Always.
Lie: I won’t spoil, coddle, indulge or enable you in any way. You’ll grow up without a sense of entitlement and learn the value of independence.
Truth: I will do all of those things. Occasionally. OK, often. Not because I don’t value your independence but because I am your dad, and that is one my many inherent flaws. I can live with that.
Lie: I will never lie to you.
Truth: I will lie to you from time to time. Most of the time, it will be for your own good or to protect you. Sometimes, it will be because I really can’t deal with another 20 minute meltdown over that Spider-Man puzzle you insist on doing but can never figure out, so it is now “lost” until further notice.
Lie: I won’t keep everything you ever create or bring home from school. That’s f*cking crazy.
Truth: I’ll keep it all. I am a hoarder. Again, I blame my mom.
Lie: I will always set the best example for you and be the most important role model in your life.
Truth: I sometimes forget to brush my teeth at night, I’m pretty sure I eat my body weight in candy each year, I say the word “f*ck” often… and audibly, I drink beer and wine with your mother on a regular basis, I have my head in my phone more often than I’d care to admit, I yell at other drivers in the car, I occasionally forget to return phone calls and text messages, and I don’t delete watched shows on my DVR until it’s too damn late. So um… yeah. I won’t always be the best example, but I will always try. It won’t be perfect, but then again, I don’t expect you to be either.
Lie: When it comes to dads, I’d like to think I’m a cross between Danny Tanner and Philip Banks.
Truth: Wait, did I say Danny Tanner and Philip Banks? I meant Phil Dunphy and Michael Bluth. Yeah, that makes more sense.
Lie: I will always be there for you.
Truth: I won’t be there one day, but when that day comes, I hope I will have given you all the tools, wisdom and resolve necessary for you to live the happy and meaningful life I know you deserve.
Lie: I can never love you more than I do at this very moment.
Truth: I can.