One of the saddest statistics I have seen is that divorce rates among couples with special needs children are higher than among the general population. This breaks my heart. In situations where it is most critical for a couple to stay together so they can work together for the good of their children, there is even more family breakdown.
And the sad reality is that one of the main reasons for this breakdown is that too many fathers are walking away from difficult situations. My friend’s wife counsels women who are in high-risk pregnancies, and he swears that by the end of their wives’ terms, half the fathers have left. And often, even if they stay, they don’t make the selfless changes necessary to accommodate the special needs of the wife going through the difficult pregnancy.
Again, this is heart breaking. At their wives’ and children’s most needful hour, their attitude is “this is not what I signed up for; I’m outta here.”
That is why when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) last June, I knew that I needed to step up in a big way. Responsible fatherhood needed to take on a whole new meaning for me. My son deserved for me to be there for him. My wife deserved for me to be there for her.
Thankfully, due to incredible medical breakthroughs, T1D has become a manageable disease. But it still takes constant vigilance. You can’t take a day off from managing it. Really, you can’t even take several hours off from managing it. Our son is 3-1/2, so he is not yet at the age where he can tell us when he doesn’t feel quite right. It is up to us to figure it out, which involves checking his blood sugar every few hours (even in the middle of the night). It means making constant adjustments to his insulin pump to ensure that we are keeping his blood sugar under control.
And none of these actions or decisions is made without my wife and I working together. And what makes it work even better, what gives it that magical synergy, is that my wife and I both approach things differently. Right on par with the research about how moms and dads take different approaches to parenting, my wife and I take different approaches to diabetes management! For example, my wife tends to be much more cautious/worried when it comes to dealing with his high blood sugars, whereas I tend to be a little more laissez faire and patient; what this creates is a perfect balance where we are not overreacting, nor are we standing idly by.
Aside from the “transactional” part of managing the disease, there is the relational part as well. My wife and I both relate to my son differently, and we can already see how our son reacts and interacts with us differently. He makes it clear that he is happiest when both my wife and I are with him, eating dinner together, watching a movie, whatever. He gets irreplaceable comfort and security from our presence. When he wants to be thrown (high) into the air, he comes to me. When he wants to cuddle he goes to mom (I cuddle him, and my wife throws him (low) in the air, too, but I am talking about “on average” here).
Short of there being a cure, my son will always have T1D, which means that I will always have to work with my wife to ensure that he grows up as happy, healthy, and normal as possible. This is a team task, and my wife and I are our son’s perfect team.
Being there for my wife and my son to help him overcome the challenge of T1D – that’s #DadsWay.
You may be wondering why we are using the hashtag #DadsWay. From now until June 23, every time you Tweet using the hashtag #DadsWay, Tide and Downy will donate $1 to National Fatherhood Initiative! So, if you are on Twitter, sign in and tell us what #DadsWay means to you.