Another Father’s Day has come and gone but the significance and impact of a fathers love and support can be far reaching in a child’s life for many years to come. As I made my calls and dropped off cards this Father’s Day to my father, stepfather, grandfather and great uncle I reflected on the impact that these men have made and continue to make on my life. My thoughts reminisced over memories from my childhood and the role these men have played; but, I found it was those memories from the more recent years of my life that seemed to be burned into my heart and my mind with greater significance. Through life changes like my son's autism diagnosis as well as the reality of two broken marriages, the men that have remained in my life have become more important to me than ever. My mind could not stop there as I began to look at the many blessings that all the men in my life have provided me along the way. Relationships in our lives may change, like a marriage, the structure of our family unit and even friendships. Despite the pain and confusion that comes along with these kinds of changes there are those men who choose to stick it out and stay around no matter what. These men find a way to selflessly contribute to the lives of their family and friends. For each of us the role men play in our lives can look so very different. It may be the ex-husband who consistently spends time with his children and supports mom’s efforts when looking into therapies and interventions for their special needs child. It can be that friend, who by all accounts should have been your brother who is constantly looking out for you and the kids when it comes to matters of the heart. Maybe it’s a great uncle who jumps in when there’s the need for a Mr. fix-it. It could also be a new someone that is special in your life who upon meeting immediately sees the areas of need for you and your children and does not hesitate to do whatever he can to make life a bit easier in ways that you would never have expected. Regardless of their title or position, the support and encouragement of a good man is invaluable!
While Father’s Day was created to honor the many roles of a father it is actually a day that allows us the opportunity to recognize and cherish the endearing qualities of all the men in our lives. As a strong woman and single parent, I have been guilty at times of trying to do everything on my own with the cavalier attitude of “I am woman, hear me roar”. Being a strong woman in the various roles of a wife, mother, daughter, business woman or trail blazer is honorable yet, at times it can diminish our ability to clearly see the effort and dedication these men put forth in making a difference in our lives. Through my recent divorce I had many opportunities to see examples of patience, selflessness and love from some pretty amazing family and friends. Over the past five years I would frequently run into a dear friend from high school whom I had grown up with through the later part of my childhood. Our daughters coincidentally ended up in the same third grade classroom. This did not seem that remarkable except that Chris’s daughter had attended private school up until this point in time. As our daughters spoke of one another to each of their families we gradually began to realize the unprecedented connection between the two. The girls friendship gave way to his wife and I becoming dear friends, I can say it was as if I had found a long lost sister. My dear friends Chris and Joanne began to play a bigger role in our family for the next three years. The irony does not stop there. Chris and Joanne have three beautiful children! Two of their kiddos are boys. As fate would have it, both boys had been diagnosed with learning delays and one was more specifically on the autism spectrum. During one of the greatest times of need in my life due to the radical changes within my family unit (divorce), Chris and Joanne reached out to me and my children by offering us the opportunity to live with them until my life had stabilized. This act of kindness and selflessness was an amazing gift that no amount of money could ever buy. They did more than talk the talk, they walked the walk by showing such commitment and support to me and my children. For many friends and family, adjusting to a child’s moods, behaviors and lack of communication that is associated with autism can be trying. I have worked with behavior analyst for years, trying to further Jacobs level of communication and coping skills but as a parent that feeling of constantly being assessed and judged never quite goes away no matter how well your child is doing. I know the stress that we as parents feel when we are unable to control every response our child may have to changes in their environment but I have to say that I never once was made to feel apologetic for my son, his diagnosis or the struggles he had at times due to his diagnosis. Those seven months did more for me than simply allow me the opportunity to regroup. Those seven months began the slow process in renewing my faith in people. There were days of noises, yelling and even at one point a hole emerging in one of the bedroom walls as a result of Jacob’s frustration. To their credit, Chris and Joanne never once spoke ill of him or me. The consistent support provided the very opposite in response to the few conflicts that occurred during this time. There were many evenings of sitting on the back porch with Chris as he would talk to me like a big brother, cracking jokes until I laughed and encouraging me to see the new future that lay ahead. Many men would have never considered helping a family friend in such a way that it directly affected the daily working and routine of their own families life, even with the loving prompts and encouragement of their wife. While Joanne was the sunshine and joy in my day that made me smile and feel at peace, Chris was the structural support that I needed in order to begin mending the brokenness I had endured through my divorce.
To this day I am still amazed at how something that may have seemed like no big deal at the time when they decided to invite me, the children and three dogs into their home ended leaving such a lasting impression on my heart and the very fiber of who I am now. I can’t help but want to encourage each of you to see the little things that these men do that make life a bit easier. While my circumstance may be an extreme example, it reminded me to see the little things with even greater appreciation! Whether the man in your life is a father, grandfather, brother, uncle, family friend or significant other who may take out the trash, goes to the store to grab pull ups at bed time, does the dishes, or spontaneously picks up a broom to sweep as you vacuum the house, they are worthy of our appreciation. These simple acts of kindness are just a few of the ways these men show exactly what’s in their heart. So, when you may be overwhelmed, over worked or simply running on auto pilot, pause for a moment to appreciate the beauty and the blessings that the men in your life have bestowed upon you. Life is so very short, and can pass in the blink of eye. It would be a tragedy to not take one moment to tell those special people in your life just how much they mean to you.
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