He puts up with all my shouting, even though he hates loud noises.
Even though he is easily embarrassed, he read me a story on a crowded bus, so I wouldn’t get bored and fidgety. He took a week off work to look after me last half term (mum has gone back to University).
On the first day I was ill, so he took me to the doctor, gave me my medicine, rubbed cream on my rashy face, and to tempt me to eat he ‘forgot’ his dislike of fast food and took me to the Drive-thru. And he let me eat it in the car (don’t tell the others, they’re not allowed to).
He has always worked hard, so that my Mum could stay at home to look after us.
When I was born he knew Mummy would be needed at home more than ever, so he went to University as well as working full-time, so that if he ever lost his job there was a better chance that he would get another one. Even when the going gets tough, and he and Mummy go through a ‘bad patch’, he never gives up.
He tries very hard to make things right again.
But the real reason my Dad is a Superdad is because he does all this despite having had no example to follow.
You see, my Dad grew up without a father. He has no memory of him; the only thing my Dad knows about his Dad is that he left his family. When my big brother came along, my Dad didn’t know how to be a father.
He knew it must a Very Important Job because of the size of the hole his own father left behind when he went. But what my Dad did know is that he wanted to be a presence in his child’s life, not an absence.
The rest he just had to make up as he went along. It would have been easy to fall into simply being a Provider, since one of the biggest legacies of his own lack of a father had been lack of money, and after all, he had no blueprint to show him what the day-to-day role of ‘father’ was meant to be. Perhaps because he had no preconceived expectations of fatherhood it was easier for him to adapt to being a ‘special needs’ Dad.
Perhaps having no fixed idea of what a Dad was supposed to do made him better able to respond to what we each, individually, needed him to be. And that’s no easy task: my big brother has Aperger’s Syndrome, he’s a bit socially awkward, and fiercely intelligent.
I have Down’s Syndrome, with associated developmental delay and learning difficulties, and my big sister is ‘typically developing’ (or a ‘typical woman’, as my Dad would say. Let me tell you, if she’s typical I’m staying right away from women).
Our individual needs differ widely; parenting is a complex business in our house.
But my Dad is a Superdad—because he knows that, special needs or not, the one thing that we all need from him is ... him.
Not perfect, but PRESENT.