To the Dad Whose Guidance Helps Me Raise My Sons With Autism


Sunday is Father’s Day. I’ve just moved across the country with my two autistic children who are beautiful, amazing and completely out sorts.

My father, my blood father, is not part of my life. He doesn’t want to be. That’s OK, though, because I have a father.

My father-in-law is a wonderful man. A man who walked into my life when my father walked out. His son, my husband, is an amazing man. I love him dearly. I want it to be clear I wish my husband a happy, happy Father’s Day and I love him. He is an amazing daddy.

This, however, goes out to my father-in-law. The dad who chose to love me.

Dad isn’t a man of words. He is a man who acts. You know the type who loves his children resiliently, and it’s just understood because he is good to them. He’s their friend. He listens.

Dad was the math teacher at our high school, so as you can imagine, he has a practical mind. When I talked to Dad about my boys’ autism diagnoses, he didn’t blink an eye. I know it was a surprise to him. No one thinks their grandkids are going to have a disability, but he has accepted them just as they are. When you’re a special needs family, you know what that means. Everywhere you turn there might be judgment, disapproval, “cures” and ideas about discipline. He and my mother-in-law have always just accepted them as they are.

My father-in-law has taught me many things that have helped me raise my two perfect boys who have autism.

These are some of the things he’s taught me. I hope his guidance will reassure those who never had the honor of a true father.

Breathe: You were given these children; you can handle it. They fit perfectly into your family.

Have a smile for your child no matter how frustrated you are. It’s your job to teach your children grace.

Pull your wisdom from who parented before you, but don’t let them tell you how to raise your children. They are yours.

Never, ever, ever let your frustration become an attack on your children. They have soft spirits.

Always have faith.

Apologize to your children when you are wrong, or they will never learn to apologize.

Sometimes an open heart means a broken heart. This applies to your children, too. But every moment is worth it.

You never regret love. That’s why we are here, to love others.

You must have someone you can be accountable to. Someone who will love you, support you and help you get on the right road.

Your past mistakes don’t have to be your future. You just have to get passed the past.

Dad, I am still a work in progress, but thank you.

Much like on the hardest days with my boys, when you met me, I was lost. You helped me by simply telling me I was enough. Plenty of people loved me; I believe God loved me, and I could love me. I remember the grace you have, and I know I’m blessed and I can do this.

I hope I am half the parent you didn’t have to be.

Happy Father’s Day,

Jo

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