Last night I attended the “Father of the Year” 2011 Awards dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel which benefited the American Diabetes Association, and was deeply moved by the videos, tributes and speeches of the three honorees. One of the honorees was Dr. Kevin B. Kaiserman, a pediatric endocrinologist who works with Type 1 diabetes kids and teens (a newly-diagnosed 17 year-old kept texting him questions during the evening). He talked about how his own father, also a physician, took Kevin along with him to see patients when he was just a child (way before patient privacy laws) and showed him by example how to be both a caring doctor and a loving Dad.
I wish there was a similar gala evening honoring those Dads of kids and teens with special needs who go way beyond the call of duty.
The Dad who takes his twin kids with severe asthma to the Cedars ER so often that the graveyard shift staff members know his name. The Dad who spends every night sleeping with his daughter who has seizures to make sure she makes it through the night. And the Dad who spends countless evening and weekend hours helping his son with cerebral palsy learn how to walk (I’m getting personal here).
What makes these Dads really special is their commitment and dedication to their children, despite the conventional thinking that after a special needs diagnosis, Dads tend to retreat into their professional lives and re-double their efforts to make more money while the moms typically take on the day-to-day tasks of therapies, medical appointments and fighting the insurance company for coverage.
As Jill Brooke said in a HuffPost piece posted on Oct. 24 2008 :
“A recent study in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology revealed that parents of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are nearly twice as likely to divorce by the time the child is 8 years-old….
The caregiver—usually the mother—will feel like a twister has ripped through her home and heart, literally uprooting her life. To survive is a daily struggle; to thrive requires a candor between husband and wife that drills into the deepest crevices of their beings and leaves no emotional stone unturned.”
In the Jewish community, our biggest accolades are typically given to the men who have been professionally successful, are the biggest philanthropists, or garner the most Oscars. We tend to stay away from talking about the work/life balance when it comes to fathers, and ignore the fact that 60-hour week jobs can often take guys away from being actively involved in their families, with or without special needs.
I want to end by giving a special shout out to my husband, Aron Wolf, for being such a great Dad for both of our children, and trying to live up to the immortal lyrics of “The King and I” when Yul Brenner sings, “Everyday I do my best for one more day”!