It's different for Dads

This week I am pleased to introduce another guest contributor, this time a Dad!
It is not Mr Hammie, who prefers the sword to the pen (he he) but a Dad who writes his own blog; a diary of his experience of having a baby boy with Downs Syndrome.
He has very kindly written this piece especially for us.

It's different for Dads - Part 1:

Evicting the control freak.

One November evening a few short years ago our house got flooded. Not someone-left-the-bath-running flooded. No, this was three-feet-high-and-rising, can-anyone-see-the-bath-tub-anymore? flooded. Next morning we could see that we had lost the entire downstairs of our lives. I smile now when I think back to our pathetic attempts to keep the floodwaters out, using a kitchen brush and increasingly damp optimism. Might as well have asked Brenda and Audrey to soak it up with a Bounty wipe each.

I did learn one important thing though: that we cannot control anything. Not a sodding thing. We may have the illusion of it, or partial dominance over the circumstances, but in the long run it is we who have to adapt to the situation, not the other way around. Fate deals the hand. We either play it or fold.
Easier said than done.
When our third son was born with Down Syndrome in November 2007, he and his condition came flooding into our lives without warning. I knew next to nothing about Downs. The information I did have was sketchy and unreliable. So for a while I did the perfectly reasonable guy thing. I acted as though I understood it all completely, and that everything was absolutely fine thanks.
There is a powerlessness that attaches to not knowing, and I think that men have a harder time with that than women.
As a guy you are wired not to let that lack of control show. It’s the same effect that keeps a man driving for miles in the wrong direction rather than ask a stranger for directions.
Don’t berate us for it. It’s not a decision on our part. It’s the male default setting.
It can be changed, but unfortunately the manual’s lost.
If you do decide to have a go at altering the setting so that your man will easily accept change and be ok with feeling inferior occasionally, be prepared for the reaction when you push the wrong buttons.

Don’t abandon hope though.

Please don’t misunderstand me about the letting go of control. Learning to accept that it’s impossible to control something is NOT a licence to ignore your responsibilities. Far from it.
It’s more an acceptance of what you can do and what you will never be able to achieve, and where you draw the line that will allow you to give yourself a break.
Prime example: I cannot control my children. (Not that they swing out of the lights in SuperValu and bend the aerials of cars in traffic like some vengeful chimps in a safari park. Although, now that I mention it…)
No, I mean that there are mistakes they have to make that I cannot shield them from, and slowly, oh so slowly, I am learning to accept that. It is not easy, but certain lessons only their peers can teach them, or their own experience, or gravity, or running on wet bathroom tiles, or the coldness of a water-filled December welly.

And when they fall and cry and I feel bad, that’s just what Responsibility feels like. I don’t have to like it. I just have to recognise that I can’t control everything.

So, how does a guy step back from this impossible need to be master of everything in his little kingdom? I have no idea. I can only tell you what seems to work for me. It carries no guarantees. It’s not very scientific, or even very appealing. To tell you the truth, I can’t even control it. Matter of fact, it only has one plus: in times of great stress it allows me to carry on.

What works for me is falling apart.
It’s not very macho, but at times of enormous stress letting the dam burst has proved to be the only thing that gives me strength to get on with living in the medium-to long term.
Because anyone can sustain total control over the short term. But show me a parent who uses their energy to make life look externally perfect all the time and I’ll show you someone who’s up to their ears in denial. And that’s not a river in Egypt.
Life is imperfection. It’s uncontrollable, glorious imperfection, and the sooner we grasp that the sooner we might get something back from it.

Now maybe I’m an emotional fish. Maybe it’s something I’ve learned. I’m unsure.
But what I do know is that a mini-breakdown brings release, catharsis, call it what you like, but it cleans the pipes out, literally as well as figuratively, and allows me to start to rebuild life with a clear, if somewhat thumping, head.
It is an intensely private thing, and it is not easy to talk about it so openly.
I am blessed in that I have some close people who understand this part of me and support me, and I only truly discovered this at a very stressful time.

I wept bitterly and uncontrollably, hours after my son was born with Down Syndrome.

Everything was not alright, despite my previous assertions. Life was very different suddenly, I was hugely confused and uncertain and scared like I’d never been. I knew that a collapse was what I needed in order to have strength, regroup and move forward. I can’t explain why.
I can only assure you that it is true.
If writing about it helps anyone to cope with the extreme stress that family can sometimes bring, then excellent. I am hopeful that it will.
Pent-up frustration, pain and stress are dangerous poisons that can be stored indefinitely by most men, but I’d rather trust the release of a good emotional wreck-up.

If you can find the space to do it, giving up control isn’t half as hard as it sounds.

Especially if you realise that you never have it in the first place.


For more on Downsdads unique perspective on his journey see

Thankyou Downsdad, I'm speechless.


Anonymous said…
Very inspirational and moving.
Style On Track said…
Hello there,
I am new to your blog and I just wanted to say that I really love it :) I have an uncle with autism and he is just the most wonderful inspiring person. Your kids seems gorgeous. I can't wait to see more of your posts x
Lisamaree said…
Welcome on track. And thankyou for the boost!