Wednesday, June 25, 2014

4,383 Days of Unique Fatherhood

4,383 days and counting...

Happy Birthday, Lilly!  You entered our life 12 years ago today. 

Like most children, my youngest daughter has been looking forward to this day for a while.

“June Two-Five”, she struggles to enunciate. “My Birthday!?”

She is more than willing to celebrate it several times a week -- It has been sheer
torture to endure the birthdays of classmates over the past year.  Those of you who work with people on a regular basis in special education, human services, or disability ministry know what I mean!

“Gtifs?” she scrawls down on a piece of paper.  I understand – her handwriting, spelling and vocalization has improved greatly in the last two years.

Social science informs us that personal identities are largely formed through mutual interactions and experiences with those around us.  My daughter and the world into which she unwittingly introduced us has definitely shaped our family over the past 12 years.

“Mermaids?” she continues.  I have promised her a treasure map hunt – we’ll search the house for new paints, mermaids, fidget toys and other trinkets each of which will surely evoke a shrill scream of delight.

I’m not sure why this birthday seems to strike me differently than the others. Perhaps I identify with another father, Jairus, the Biblical synagogue official whose 12-year old daughter embraced Jesus. (Luke 8).

Jesus raising Jairus daughter. 
North Cameroon Mafa tribe artwork.
"Cupcakes?" she asks, batting her eyelids like Lucy Ricardo.  It works, I melt.  Yes, I say, -- knowing full well it's breakfast time and hoping mommy won't  find out. -- She giggles at our secret as we lick the frosting off our blue stained fingers.

While researching literature on family caregivers, I have discovered that few longitudinal studies follow fathers.  There are plenty of “mommy blogs” out there, but few resources for fathers.  We rarely share our personal narratives. Joe Butler of Ability Tree did some initial research in this area last year.    Another Kind of Courage – written by Doug Mazza and Steve Bundy, represents one of the first major endeavors in this field.  (I’ll be writing a review soon).

So my daughter challenges me again, just like when she cracked me up half her lifetime ago.  I thought I had told my story before.  Reviewing 10 years of blog entries reveals I haven’t.  

Maybe once I tell my story, other fathers will share too.  I want to hear your stories!  Look for mine soon.

Happy Birthday, Lilly! 

Love you forever!

--Your Dad