Sunday, March 3, 2013

Not your Typical Parenthood

Okay, I'm going to give you fair warning.  I am going to whine in this post.  I'm gonna share how I feel, and it not be right, and perhaps I'm a crappy dad for saying it, but it's on my mind, so I'm going to write about it.

I find it really difficult to relate to parents of typical children.

I feel like we're in this strange parallel universe where all parents, even those with special needs children, have at least one child who is typical.  This typical child produces, in some manner, some resemblance of a typical parent-child relationship.  I do not know a single family with multiple children, other than those I have passed in cyberspace, that have all special needs children.  Usually it is one child affected, but other children are "normal".

I was assisting in Sunday School today when I realized I had no idea if the behaviour I was witnessing was normal or not.  I don't know what normal is, I only know what my kids do... and that is not what most kids do.

I have written before about parent isolation.  Most people have what you would consider peer groups, and most of those peer groups have a very predictable trajectory:

  • Single people
  • Childless couples, usually younger
  • Couples with young children
  • Couples with school age children
  • Couples with teenagers
  • Couples with an empty nest / university aged children
  • Couples with a full empty nest and retired
I don't feel I have a peer group.  It is difficult to relate to a childless couple... we don't have the flexibility or free time they might have, nor do we look forward wistfully to starting our family.

I suppose we are closest to families with young children since although our children are pre-school age, they are both delayed developmentally (A much more so than T).  Even still, it is weird watching toddlers go to the bathroom when your 3.5 year old wants his diapers.

So I say again - I don't know what typical parenting is.  I only know what parenting my children is.  And it is very different than typical.

I'll admit, I very much struggle with this.  I went away on a trip last week for work, and when I came back the next morning, I prompted both kids to say hello to me (both were busy with our iPhones watching videos), just like any other morning.  They did not appear to notice I went anywhere.  There was no running to me yelling "Daddy, daddy", or "what did you get me", or "how was your trip".  There ... was... nothing.  Nothing.  Like I never left.

Let me go out on a limb here and say most of us feel loved the most when we are known and accepted by others, and we know and accept other people.  When I say "know", I mean at some deeper emotional level.  "Life", such as it is, has been shared and some intimacy has been gained between people.  I don't feel that way about my kids.  It hasn't happened yet.  It may never happen.  I feel like emotionally I still have infants.

That makes me sad.  It's not what I expected out of fatherhood.

Yes, I know it's not about me.  But I can still mourn the fact that for me, fatherhood will be very different.  If typical moments or rites of passage of fatherhood come for me, it will be later, or perhaps never. 

Forgive me if I'm sad about that.  It is what it is.  But today what it is really sucks. 


  1. I hear you. Your sadness is understandable. It's a real loss to have a relationship with your children that's so very different from the one that you had expected and hoped for. Something might be gained as well, but something important was lost, and your grief is a normal human reaction to that loss. I don't have any wise words to offer, but just wanted you to know that I am here reading this, and abiding with you.

  2. I know how you feel. I have a NT 3 yr old and a high functioning autistic 7 yr old. The 3 yr old has past the 7 yr old in emotional awareness, sociability and just plain old kid's stuff. my 3 yr old can tell me that she loves me but not the 7 yr old. The only emotional response I get from the 7 yr old is when he is angry and tells me that he hates me and wishes I was dead. Nothing breaks your heart more than hearing those words uttered at the age of five. The lack of connection between parent and child is not healthy. After so many years it's easier to walk away from a child who doesn't show you how they love you, than a child that can. I find I really don't want to be around my 7 yr old. I don't see the point. The parent is just a caregiver, nothing more. But they speak a different language and you have to learn it.I don't know if my 7 yr old understands what love is but he does behave differently now when we have been apart. And as for the peers. Our family joined a local Autism group. We partake in the family events that they put on and being around all those different autistic kids shows us, that, that is where we belong. We don't belong to any other peer group. Only other parents of autistic kids understand and then you're not alone. It really is a different kind of parenting. It's not the norm in our society. We will always be in the minority group. I still haven't found a book that describes my 7 yr old but I do know that put him room with other autistic kids and you'll see the similarities. I mourned the loss of my child, I still do sometimes. But I know he wont be a vegetable, wasting away in a bed somewhere. He has ideas, thoughts and sometimes he speaks and shares them with me and I'm blown away with what he has noticed. After 7 years I have no dreams for him. I'm just going to go along for the ride and see where we end up. And in a way I grateful to have given those thoughts up and just let my child be a child and let him decide where he's going to go in life. Sorry for the rambling, lack of sleep.