Dear Friend Dad,
As we come to celebrate Father’s Day, I wanted to write to you from a dad to a dad. Thank you for all you do every single day for your family, especially your little ones.
For me, being a father of a child with multiple disabilities is a constant recalibrating of both my experiences with my dad and my own expectations of being a dad. I took from my dad, the hard-working man who valued daily meals around the table, order, the dignity of work, critical thinking, and honor. Informed by my experiences with my dad and my own expectations to overcome his shortcomings I embraced my vocation as a husband and as a father. Even at times when I did not know what to do or say. When my youngest one was diagnosed with multiple disabilities, I asked God for guidance as I had no clue on how to support, care for, and advocate for my child. I began the task to search for best practices, listening to experts on disabilities, and reading anything that could shed a light.
I began to pray that I might have the openness to let go of my own expectations for my little one and construct with him new horizons. I pray that you are always open to seeing the little details, take a moment to contemplate your child, and enjoy every moment that she overcomes an obstacle or when he surprises you! Celebrate those little moments and store them in your heart.
Being a dad of a child with disabilities is like a dance. We take a couple of steps forward, one to the left, one back and right and forward. A dance that requires attentiveness to the melody played by the smiles and tantrums and frustrations and achievements that our little one goes through every single day. A dance that requires a sense of laughter, so we can forgive our “miss-steps.” A dance that requires loving melodic-complemented movements between dad and mom.
I remember vividly when my child was having such a difficult day that I had to bring him out of school. Those couple of blocks driving from the school to our home felt like hours. As I struggled to get his backpack and help him with his self-afflicted behavior, I barely was able to open the door and lead him toward his safe zone in his room. After several minutes of sitting on the floor and helping him calm down, he was able to stop screaming and kicking. Once calmed, I sat down in our living room, and letting those prayerful tears come out I told the Lord that I was not sure I could do this. Silently in prayer, I closed my eyes and I told Him, “Help me Lord, so I can help him… I am not sure I can do this…” I opened my eyes to the feeling of a tiny hand caressing my shoulder. It was my son who in his half pronounced words said “It’s ok Papi (daddy).”
As we come to celebrate your day, Father’s Day, I extend my prayers for you and all dads out there, trying, failing, and trying again. Do not give up. Bring your struggles to the Lord.
Relationship with the Lord
That leads me to the relationship with the Lord. It helps to sit still and spiritually leave that huge bag of concerns and doubts at the altar. I see it not as giving up but as an offering up. And as the slow smoke departs the candle, so your thoughts and concerns may be “Olah” offered and elevated to the Creator. This profound trust in our loving God is what sustains us and keeps sending us forth with a renewed sense of sons of the Most High!
Relationship with your spouse
Relationship with the love of your life. As the holy father says, “In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated” (AL126). Dialogue, dialogue, and dialogue. As a husband, discover gradually the essentiality of sharing your thoughts, fears, and dreams as you walk together. Be attentive to her sharing. Remember that the sacred covenant will be challenged to its core. However, don’t fall into the temptation of carrying these roles solely on your shoulders or using work as an escape from them either. Let’s be open to the grace of God as there are things that we might not be able to face by ourselves. Never underestimate the power of “Please, thank you, and sorry!” These are three important words that can assist us in our daily growth in love.
Finally, that leads me to the relationship with yourself. Take a moment to enjoy a walk or a cup of coffee. Go for a bike ride or take a well-deserved nap. Keeping a journal of my days helps me contemplate God’s presence during the day. Take care of yourself. Laugh a little, forgive your shortcomings, embrace your accomplishments, the little steps forward.
Through the intercession of Saint Joseph, May our Lord continue granting you strength!
Guardian of the Redeemer, Pray for us.
Servant of Christ, Pray for us.
Minister of Salvation, Pray for us.
Support in Difficulties, Pray for us.
Patron of Refugees, Pray for us.
Patron of the Afflicted, Pray for us.
Patron of the Poor, Pray for us.
Happy Father’s Day! You are the face of our merciful God to your little ones.
From a dad to a dad.
Peter J. Ductrám, MDiv., MA, is the Senior Director of Ministries for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.