I Ain't Complainin'
I was recently asked to write about what it's like being a father of a special needs child.
This is a tough one to answer. So much of the direct interaction with the outside world is handled by Jodi. She fights with the insurance companies, the government, and goes to all the doctor’s appointments. At one point not long ago, we added up all the monetary value that Jodi’s efforts either brings to the family in the form of direct services, or in savings, and it totaled more per year than my salary.
I do help with some of Jacob’s treatments, but by and large, I feel foreign to that process.
Not that I feel like I’m shirking my responsibilities as a father. I work 40+ hours a week to bring food to the table, and put the roof over our heads. I spend time with the boys reading, playing video games, playing Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. I get them off to school.
And somewhere in there, I get to spend some time dating my wife each week, and feeling close to her. I go to church (twice each Sunday), and try and fulfill my church callings. I also get to spend a little time making some music and following my dreams.
So, it’s a pretty full life. I’m not really sure that in the big picture it’s any different than the mom’s life. I do get to go to an office and work, and I interact with clients and co-workers. But then, Jodi does, too. It’s just that her office is at home, and her work is more directly with the boys.
But when I say, “It’s a pretty full life”, I mean that in both senses of the words. It’s “full” in the sense that it’s very fulfilling. I’m feeling very complete, even though at times I’m also feeling inadequate for the tasks.
It’s also a very “full” life in that it is “filled”. There are very few minutes that aren’t filled with some sort of activity. Really the only “down” time I get is when I can’t sleep, and I get to be a couch potato at 2:00 in the morning watching infomercials and lame un-reality TV on VH-1 (Maybe they could get some of the one-hit wonders of the seventies to move into a house together for two months. Then they could make both an infomercial and a reality show at the same time!).
And overall, in spite of the fact that it’s filled to the brim, I’m constantly feeling like I’m not giving enough. I don’t work with Jacob on his therapies enough. I don’t get things done at my job enough. I don’t get to spend time with Jodi enough. I don’t sing or write enough. I don’t go out with the missionaries enough. It’s just not enough.
One day, Jodi and I were in Roberts, looking at craft things. She asked if there was some art supplies I wanted, paints or brushes, or anything. My answer? “The one thing I need to do better paintings is the one thing they don’t sell here—Time!”
But two things come to mind when I let myself feel sorry for myself:
One is that when I look at my friends who have “normal” children, they don’t seem to have any more spare time than I do. Tasks seem to expand to fill the available hours in the day, no matter who you are.
And also, when I see Jacob giggle at a tickle, or when Brendon beats me AGAIN at Pokemon Stadium (and I’ve given up on letting him win, I’m actually trying!), or when Jodi and I get some precious moments together, it’s all worth it.
I’m reminded of the line from Joe Walsh: “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do… Life’s been good to me so far…”