In life as dads, we have many roles: income earner, dad, husband, community member, and so forth. The role of a dad of special needs child is not one we likely chose, or if we did, it was probably totally new as an orientation.

So here we are in a role that has no precedent and much of it is not something we were expecting when we got married. And to make the situation even more jarring, consider how our identity as a person originated.

Our identity as an individual came about from our heredity, our environment and our conditioning from the time we were infants. As a matter of fact, the largest impact on our identity occurs in the formative years of our life as children. It is there that we develop our basic values, habits, personality, self-image and patterns of behavior.

That identity comes with goals, aspirations, talents and desires. We embody an identity that is complex and hopeful in a bright future.

And then along comes a child with special needs that brings with them a confusing and often stressful set of needs. Our identity as a dad is challenged by the situation. Stress results because the identity of being a dad of normal healthy children in a family is pierced to the core of our being, formed as it has been over so many years.

To make matters worse, we find ourselves on occasion castigating ourselves for not adapting, not handling the situations better we find ourselves frequently in.  We fail to realize that what we are confronting in ourselves, the long developed identity of self is being remolded, and some parts need to be abandoned.

Letting go of the old can be difficult at time, especially if we had a particularly cherished attachment to it.  But the negative judgments we sometimes make about ourselves is not only not useful but damaging to ourselves and those around us who need our best. The sooner we realize that the process of remolding our identity as a special dad of special needs kids is messy, imperfect, tough, normal and natural, the better off we will be.

Letting go of the old identity to remake a new identity that is stronger, warmer, more loving and generous is God’s gift to the special dad and his family! Charity towards other begins with charity towards ourselves: patience and forgiveness are fundamental to charity towards ourselves and others.

Our identity as a special dad of a special needs kid is a gift of a lifetime as we grow to the fullest heights of our potential and give the best version of ourselves to our family, friends, employer and community.  What could be better?