Thursday, October 27, 2005

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…”

Mark Hansen

Monday, October 17, 2005

Advice to Myself

Tonight on Dr Phil (my wife likes to watch him, and I was there, too), there were a number of guests, but there were two that really struck me.

One was a man and his wife, and the man expected the wife to do certain things, basically to please him. He wanted dinners, he wanted a clean house, and he wanted her to be sexy for him. The trouble is, that he was constantly criticizing her and berating her when she didn’t measure up. He didn’t yell or scream, but he was pretty clear in his disappointment.

The other was a woman who said she was happy being a housewife, and that it was wonderful for her to do things for her husband. She kept the house clean, and worked with the kids at home, and had dinners made, and even dressed up a bit when he came home from work. She said she felt fulfilled making him happy.

This all stirred up some interesting thoughts in me.

The first guy was clearly out of line. I’ve worked with people that constantly berated me. Bosses, missionary companions, and there have been times in our past where I felt I didn’t measure up to Jodi expectations. It’s not a fun place to be. I’ve also looked at it and seen that there have been times where I’ve set a pretty high bar for Jodi, too. That’s not right, no matter who’s doing it to whom.

The second lady made me a bit uneasy. There was a part of me that wanted to shrug off her choices. A part that wanted to say, “Yeah, she’s just talked herself into that, but she’ll get tired of it and end up feeling trapped, just like the feminists say she will.” There was another part of me, a very “politically and socially incorrect” part of me, that thought, “How cool would that be?”

I mean, let’s face it guys… We can be as liberal and as sensitive as we wanna, but who among us wouldn’t love it if our wives treated us like kings? Eh?

And the flip side is true, too, ladies. Who among you wouldn’t like to have your husband bringing you chocolates while you bask in the hot bath he poured for you?

There are two things that have to happen for that kind of pampering to be healthy:

1. Each of us should do it for our spouse as often as we possibly can. I know I’m preaching to myself as well, but we should all be doing everything we can each day to make each other’s life wonderful. There should be no doubt in Jodi’s mind that she’s the Queen of my world, and I should feel like her King.
2. We both need to do that because we want it, not because we are forced, belittled, or begrudged into it.

The truth is that this issue has nothing to do with sexism, or chauvinism, or feminism. We all want to feel like we’re important. And the one person we want to show us how important we are is the one who chose to be with us for eternity.

Now, I know that reality takes its toll. The ideal isn’t always attainable. But I’ll bet each of you reading this, like myself, can look inside and see one or two (or more) things that can be done to make those two things happen.

Mark Hansen

Extra: This issue of the Latter Day Songs newsletter features a track of Sam Payne live at the LDS Independent Music Fest VI! Sam's stories are wonderful. Check it out. This issue also features one of my songs, "Today and Yesterday"


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