Archives for posts with tag: Parent support

We brought my first son home from the hospital on Christmas Day. After the flood of family and friends departed, we were finally left alone with our tiny infant. I remember thinking to myself “OK, now what!?”

 As a professional coach who sometimes works with dads, I once conducted a survey where I asked, “What training did you receive to be a father?”

 One dad shot back, “You’re kidding, right?”

 I wasn’t kidding. The sad truth is that you get more training to drive a car than to have a child.

The kind of father you become can be heavily influenced by notions you don’t even know you have the day your child is born. For better or worse, it’s impossible to enter life as a parent unaffected by the framework and culture of your upbringing. That’s your starting point.

 I myself was exposed as a young boy to many different models of fatherhood from various sources on TV, at the movies, in my family, and around the neighborhood:

• the quiet, aloof dad who comes home from work and is left alone to sit in his chair (hey, he worked hard all day) while mom cooks dinner

• the docile dad who leaves all the big decisions to his wife,  “the boss”

• the all-powerful patriarch who rules the roost without opposition

• and the Great Santini-style marine sergeant who is always ready to knock some sense into his young charge. 

I also grew up in a time where fathers were expected to be breadwinners, not nurturers. So I figured I was in charge of making the money for the family, taking care of discipline, and academics.

It’s not as if my wife and I discussed any of this. They were just assumptions I made without realizing it. I think it’s safe to say I inherited these roles from my own father, like an automatic download.  

But I knew I wanted more. Most dads do.

I wanted always to be able to talk to my children, to maintain an active and open channel of communication. I wanted them to know I could see what they were doing and who they were becoming. I wanted them to know that, in good or difficult times, we would always be able to talk.

I also wanted my children to know and feel, without any doubt, that I loved them unconditionally — that no matter who they became, what they did, where they went … that I just loved them. I wanted this love to give them the freedom to be whoever they wanted to be.

Though I am far from perfect, I have worked at being present in this way to my two sons. And this has been the greatest joy of my life.

I don’t mean to suggest that everything has gone just swimmingly. Hardly. My wife and I have experienced many of the great moments that parents dream about, but also some of the moments you pray will never happen.

So here’s my bottom line about being a father. It’s easy when the report card is aces, when health is good, when the kitchen is full of laughter. But your finest hour doesn’t come until the going gets tough. And it inevitably does.

It is in the most challenging circumstances that you get to see what kind of father you really are. If you haven’t taken the time to consider this, you may too easily default to some automatic setting. And that’s probably not who you really want to be for your children, nor who they need you to be.

Recently, for completely different reasons, I chose to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation with each of my two sons. Both times I was nervous. Both times I was able to be vulnerable, as they say. I’m not ashamed to say there were tears. And both conversations ended with an embrace.

It’s been 21 years since the doctor gently placed that tiny boy in my hands and here’s what I’ve learned: In the end, the key to being a father is to see your children — to see them so clearly that they can feel it! Because this is how your children will know that you are standing with them — not just one part of who they are but all of who they are.

And when in doubt, go with your heart, not your head.

Father and his little son fishing together from wooden jetty

Father and his little son fishing together from wooden jetty

How One Mother Learned to Find Balance and Joy (NY Metro Parents Magazine).

by Tiffany Caldwell October 16, 2014

One mother of a daughter with autism was going through a lot of changes in life when she found something that seemed empowering, new, and different. Her story, as told to Kaitlin Ahern, shows how a day of joy helped her release negative feelings and embrace the power of self-care.

watercolor woman

My daughter is 7½ years old, and she has autism. She was diagnosed a little over 3 years ago, and caring for and raising her is still a learning process for me. About six months ago, I was told she wasn’t progressing in school. The process of finding her a new school where she could thrive was stressful—it was like a weight, a burden on my shoulders. I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and at about the same time I was having problems with my landlord and saw my rent increase dramatically, so I decided to give up my home.

I was going through a lot of changes in my life at that time, and I was open to something that seemed empowering, new, and different. So when I heard about the A Day of Joy workshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I thought I’d give it a try. The workshop was presented by Shane Kulman, M.S. SpEd, founder of Your Beautiful Child, whom I had met at an Autism Chalk Festival in Prospect Park earlier this year (she is a beam of light!). Shane is a special education therapist and family coach, and the A Day of Joy workshop was meant to empower parents and caregivers of children with special needs, as well as the professionals who work with them, with a sense of self-care, self-love, and a feeling of community.

I woke up the morning of the workshop optimistic and excited to see what it was all about. When I got there, I found a small, intimate group of parents and professionals and noticed the positive vibes. We did some meditation, breathing exercises, and journaling, and we had open conversations. I felt like I really connected with people who I had met for the first time that day.

Afterward, I felt lighter, like I had just released a lot of the negative emotions we all experience—doubt, fear, uncertainty. And I left feeling like a new person with a different view on life. Since then, I’ve had good days and bad days, but I keep telling myself that in due time, everything is going to be alright, and that I just have to stay focused. I keep revisiting that day, and it puts a smile on my face.

I continue to try to find a balance between caring for my daughter and caring for myself. When she was first diagnosed, I was a total wreck and completely overwhelmed. Even sitting down for a few minutes during the day to take a breather made me feel guilty. I’ve learned over time that it’s not a crime to take time for yourself, because you need it—I need time to recharge so I’m able to take care of my daughter to the best of my ability. I know that if my child senses that I’m stressed out, sad, or overwhelmed, those feelings project onto her. Still, it’s hard to find that balance and beat down the guilt and doubt that rise up when I do something for myself. I try to keep in mind that I’m just human, I’m only one person, and as long as I put my best foot forward, that’s all I can do. I know I need to care for myself so I can be around to care for my daughter in the long run.

I’m still learning every day, from workshops and seminars and especially from the amazing people I’ve met along this journey with my daughter. As the parent of a child with special needs, it’s easy to feel lost, alone, afraid, and overwhelmed. That’s why it’s very important to reach out to others. You need people in your life who can relate to what you’re going through, and who can help you along the way. Everyone needs a support system and someone to talk to. It can be a lonely and challenging world, so it’s important to stay connected and know that there’s always someone out there to guide you and give you advice. I feel that the more people you’re connected to, the better off you are, because no one can do it alone. And like the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

Tiffany Caldwell is a Brooklyn mom, a mental health therapy aide, and a passionate advocate for her daughter, who has autism, and for the special needs community at large. She enjoys spending time with her daughter in the plentiful green spaces throughout Brooklyn and watching her child’s imagination blossom through art.

WALKING THE TALK: GETTING MY SON EVALUATED

A few months ago, when we finally thought things were getting better, he started vomiting excessively. We got him tested and it turns out he is not only allergic to milk; he is also allergic to soy and wheat. Great!

Regardless of all the allergies and all the other little health issues throughout, we’ve dealt with everything without worrying too much. For some reason we haven’t been fazed by any of it.  However, amidst all the issues, one stood out.

My baby boy was not speaking.

Julian is now 21 months old. He says a total of eight words.  By two years old or 24 months, children should say at least 25 words. I hear stories from my mommy friends about their children’s rich vocabulary:

“My son says ‘ninosour.’”

“Laila sings along to songs on the radio.”

“My daughter says ‘jet.’”

“Alberto said ‘I love you’ for the first time.”

I usually just stay quiet during this part of the conversation. Smiling and nodding. And although I’m happy for them, I can’t help but question myself.

I’ve been asking myself: Do I expect too much from Julian? Or am I not pushing him enough? Am I not speaking to him enough? Am I confusing him by speaking to him in English and Spanish? Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped reading time some of those nights.

I’ve been worrying about this for several months now, which is too long. The weird thing is that professionally, I know it’s too long. But personally, the truth is that I’ve been allowing doubt and passive parenting get the best of me. I’ve let myself question whether or not I’m overthinking the situation.

But yesterday all that changed. I officially embarked on a scary and somewhat unknown journey.

I began the process of getting my son evaluated.

I know it’s strange that it took me this long to start. When parents call our resources line or family members ask about evaluating their children, I never hesitate when telling them to just do it.

“It’s better to know than to wonder,” I say.

julian

And I can feel their resistance on the other end of the phone. Now I know what they feel like.

What kind of advocate would I be for my son if I continue to let self-doubt take over when it comes to my own child?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Questions are bombarding my thoughts and I am filled with anxiety.

But I am thankful that such knowledgeable people surround me here at RCSN. I know I wont embark on this journey alone, and I look forward to sharing my own process along the way.


– Hilda

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