… from the bungalow

The Little Professor: The birth of a son and rebirth of a dad

24 Comments

I’ve been putting off this post for a while now. There are a few questions I’ve been asking myself: How can I put into words the ineffable? How can I possibly convey in a post what he means to me? How can I write about him in a way that honors his dignity and anonymity? How can I share how difficult life can be at times without eliciting pity? And where to begin?…

This post is about F, who we’ll call The Little Professor.

Finn

My oldest child is a loving, laughing, kissing, hugging 7-year-old boy. He also hits, screams, bites, pulls hair, wakes up every night, has no speech, and is still learning to use the toilet. He has been tested, diagnosed, re-assessed and re-categorized more times than I care to count. He is the oldest of the three boys in our blended family household, but he is also the youngest in many ways. His development progresses at approximately half the rate of that of a typical child. This means milestones take twice as long to reach, if they’re ever reached at all. I’ve never, for example, heard my first-born son say “DaDa.”

I read an amazing blog post the other day called The Hidden Costs: On shifting the paradigm of Special Needs parenting, a featured post on Epic Parenting. Katie not only sheds light on some of the hidden expenses involved in raising a child with special needs (missed work, diapers/pull-ups, extra laundry, home repair, even mattress replacement), but provides perspective on the heartache of lost dreams represented by a sparsely filled out baby book. This post hit close to home for me. Please take a moment to read it.

They say God/the Universe will never give you more than you can handle, and that learning happens when you’re ready to see the lesson at hand. Undoubtedly, there are events in our lives that either make or break us. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll experience both. What better way to recreate something (including yourself) than to completely break it down first? It’s an opportunity to sift through the pieces and make something that resembles the original work, only stronger and renewed.

I’m about to disclose something that I’ve only shared with a couple of people. As afraid as I am to admit it, I think it could be helpful to other parents of kids with special needs. Background first: I was a stay-at-home dad with The Little Professor from the time he was 10 months old (three months before he started receiving in-home therapy services) until he was almost six. During that time, I shed an innumerable amount of tears of happiness, sadness, joy, despair, elation, anger, frustration, etc. But in the early period, I cried mostly out of depression. There were at least a couple of times when it was too much for me to handle and I called my wife in tears begging her to come home early from work. But that’s not the part I’m embarrassed about.

Early in my time as a SAHD, when TLP was a toddler, I got so angry and frustrated with his disability that I screamed, “I HATE YOU! I hate you!” And in that moment, I meant it.

Really, I was angry about his disability. It was about a half-hour into one of his fits of screaming and crying inconsolably, and of course I had been severely sleep deprived and worn down, and it got the better of me. That was the day I broke down.

That was the day I was reborn.

I won’t say that I haven’t had my bad moments since then, but my life has most certainly changed, and I credit (and thank) TLP for that. I started to seek meaning. I had to. There had to be purpose in TLP’s life–purpose in life in general.

ShadowsThis old spirit in a young body–this guru–put me on the path to happiness. He’s taught me more about patience, acceptance and love than any individual pastor or prophet ever could. I belong to the church of F, where he presides with the most distinguished title of Little Professor.

Thank you, my Little Professor, for the ways you’ve enriched my life so far. I’m looking forward to many more years of lessons.

Parenting from the bungalow,

Chris, Eager Pupil of The Little Professor

P.S. As usual, comments are welcomed and encouraged! Thank you for reading. If you enjoy reading my blog, please “like” facebook.com/fromthebungalow. 🙂

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Author: Chris

A dad with a self-evaluation complex. Also a music therapist, college enrollment administrator, and hippie-nerd.

24 thoughts on “The Little Professor: The birth of a son and rebirth of a dad

  1. Thank you, Chris, for your openness and willingness to lay yourself bare and share such a special part of your life. Our daughter, Kayla, is four. She has ‘designer genes’, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome after she was born (in our car, on the side of the road on a cold August morning). Down syndrome was the diagnosis that I never wanted to hear, was the one thing I was most afraid of in each of my pregnancies. It was through her that I realized that my deepest fears were really nothing to fear at all. She has been an incredible gift, one though whom we have learned love, patience, trust, faith, truth, joy, acceptance. She still wears Pull-ups, her vocabulary is limited (last year she said mom for the first time), she is about 1/2 her physical age mentally. She is a joy! My two sons also have their challenges. Our middle child is ADHD/ODD; our eldest struggles in school because he was diagnosed in the Dyslexia spectrum and has difficulty processing things and writing. I will be homeschooling him next year because the regular system doesn’t work for him and he doesn’t like the school for kids with learning disabilities that he is currently attending, my other two kids also attend schools for special needs kids. Our household is never boring, for sure.
    I understand the “I hate you”, I’ve been there. My oldest also has an incredible temper and he expresses it very physically. When he was 7 he threw a water bottle at me with enough force to leave the imprint of the bottle ridges on my face. He is relentless once angered and will continue to attack and attack without stopping. One day he was screaming that he hated me and I, being at the absolute end of my rope after spending an hour trying to calm him down, screamed that I hated him too. I meant it in that moment. But something broke after that and it just changed. I don’t hate him, not at all, but there are times when I have difficulty understanding him, and times when I am frustrated beyond imagining. There are days when I wonder what it would be like to have “normal” kids, but then what is “normal” anyway? I don’t think it actually exists. It’s the endless striving to achieve “normal” that gets us into trouble. It’s all about perception.
    I have learned an incredible amount through each of our unique kids. Through the bouts of colic and nearly endless sleeplessness of our eldest’s night terrors (he was over three years old before I had a full night’s sleep), the ongoing defiance and perpetual motion of our middle child, the frank honesty, sincerity and incredible light of our youngest (you never have to guess how she’s feeling, it’s all on her sleeve). Our eldest is also loves art, is great at DJing and anything electronic (if I can’t figure out how something is hooked up, he’s the guy to ask). He’s a good leader and well -liked in his school. Our middle son is a great pianist and teaches himself by watching YouTube videos of musicians. I found that formal lessons stunted him and he wasn’t as interested in playing once he had a regular teacher. He no longer takes lessons. He writes his own music too. They are each their own amazing person and each one is a special gift. Much patience, grace and understanding is being taught on this journey! It’s one of the tremendous gifts of parenthood. I am thankful to be a student of such incredible lessons. Thanks for your honesty, hugs to you and Finn. 🙂

    • Wow. Thank you, Jan, for sharing your experience, too. As much as my heart aches for other parents, it’s a huge relief to read about their difficulties and triumphs.

  2. Amazing Chris. Thank you.

  3. Awesome as usual, Chris. I love you.

  4. Chris, thanks for linking back to this. It’s a strong and powerful piece, and I’m glad to have read it. This is exactly the sort of thing we had in mind, when we started Epic. Honest dialogue between parents about what it’s REALLY like. Not just the sanitized ‘facebook’ version we sell our friends, or the idyllic version sites like babycenter and the like try to sell us, but ‘from the trenches’ reporting, as it were. Good stuff, man. Good stuff.

    (also? we’re totally low on the dad perspective. so if you ever want to guest blog over at epic on all things dad-related, let me know!)

    • Thank you, Jaime! It’s sites like yours that inspire me to write from a place of bold honesty and vulnerability. And as soon as I read your featured post by Katie the other day, I knew I wanted to write a guest post for Epic Parenting. I did notice a general lack of the male perspective. I’d be honored!

    • BTW, you could use this one if you wanted to, or I can write one specifically for Epic Parenting. 🙂

  5. I remember the day F was born. You said you loved him so much. We did not know all that that love would entail. Bless you for your honesty and that you still love that little guy. As F’s grandmother I would have done anything to help F and you. I would be awake at night praying that F would sleep or trying to solve some of the problems that you were facing. My heart has been heavy and sad, yet F makes me smile and has brought me great joy. Be assured that we will do all that we can to support you and the boys. That’s what family does, and we love you, Karin and the boys.

    • Thank you so much, Mary, for all the support you and John provided when I was a SAHD, the support you gave their mom during the separation, and the support you continue to give now that we’re building loving blended families. The relationship we have is special and I value it immensely. We love you, too!

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  9. This was incredible. We have been extremely lucky with Noah and how he has responded to his treatments and with his medicines. Of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been frazzled and mangled to the point of exhaustion at some of his actions and the whole sleep deprivation thing brings back a multitude of nightmares and memories–mostly of me sleeping on a cold tile floor next to his bed for hours at a time, just trying to keep him from getting up at all hours.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Thank you, Derrick. It’s tough. This was for me as much as it was for other parents. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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  14. Chris,
    Since I am “newer” to your blog, there are many posts I’ve missed and if I had the time, I would go back and read from the beginning. Since I don’t, I am especially grateful for the link (from your 12 days that amaze…)you provided to this one. Your honesty is both beautiful and inspiring, and F’s smile is absolutely contagious!

    I’m mom to two girls that were diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction within weeks of each other almost 10 years ago. (The younger one appears to be closer to Asperger’s on the spectrum, though she doesn’t know that officially.) Quietly and secretly, I cried when I got home at the end of the long testing days. I cried tears of fear, and frustration, and relief. With the younger one, in particular, I had known she was “wired differently” since birth regardless of the dismissal our first pediatrician had given us.I begged for help with her explosive tantrums and “picky behaviors.” Eventually, help came. Though there were plenty of days I cried in self-pity (I’m embarrassed to admit), through the therapies we received at Children’s Hospital, I began to cry tears of hope as my children developed “coping skills” for their sensory sensitivities.

    My oldest is set to start college in the fall and her younger sister won’t be far behind. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been home with them since the beginning. I believe we are sent the children we need and who need us for the lessons we are here to learn. With gratitude, I can say each of my girls has taught me far more than I could possibly teach them in 5 lifetimes.

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post!

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