I bought this book, "The Handy Dad", for my husband on his first Father's Day: "25 awesome projects for dads and kids." How could I go wrong?
I didn't know just yet the limitations we would face, despite the fact that our first Father's Day was mere weeks after coming home from the NICU with a preemie son who had undergone a tracheotomy to breathe and would soon need a g-tube to eat. I couldn't foresee that skateboard ramps and climbing walls were not our kind of "awesome."
For the first few years, the book stayed on the coffee table, taking up prominent residence with tomes on local walking trails and world maps – places we had been or dreamed of going. The pictures in the book were cool, and I had always wanted to rig a zip line or rope bridge. It was all still workable, still possible in the list of possibilities all parents hold for their kids.
The problem, I told myself, while changing diapers or suctioning out the trach, was that my son was too young yet. Give him a few years, and we'd start dog-earing pages. The projects would come to good use.
Now it is another Father's Day. Years have passed, and I stumbled upon this book in my son's bookshelf, at the back, propping up a nightlight. We have not climbed walls or constructed skateboard ramps. But I'm not sorry. My husband has written his own book of sorts.
His table of contents now includes: 1) How to Repurpose a Highchair Tray for Wheelchair Use, 2) How to Extend the Life of a Hiking Backpack to Carry a 45-pound Toddler, 3) Where to Rent the Best Beach Wheelchairs, and 4) How to Turn a Kid Bike Carrier into a Handicap Swing.
He didn't know what he was getting into with fatherhood. He's a numbers guy. He works with computers and likes to hear the statistics on all the possible outcomes for each problem. But parenthood is not – for us or anyone – a simple equation. Sometimes the odds work in our favor and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the specialists give us a thumbs up for all the good work, and sometimes they find new mysteries to solve.
Parenting a child with special needs requires you to ignore 90 percent of the material out there for "kid tips and tricks." My Pinterest boards are filled with speech activities and ideas for how to sneak in physical therapy on vacation. We're not that into fun foodie adventures or homemade teeter totters.
Not long ago, my husband got stuck in a McDonald's slide. There aren't too many rules in the McDonald's PlayPlace, but we managed to break one. Adults aren't allowed on the equipment – for good reason it turns out.
One minute, I see a hairy leg dangling from the entrance, and the next I see his face, in the clear bubble at the top, calmly yelling (if such a thing is possible) for help. I did what any good wife would do. I laughed and took pictures.
He got himself out eventually with our son in tow. You see, that's why he risked it in the first place. He couldn't stand to let our kid miss the fun. Where most see limitations, he sees potential. So, he unstrapped our son from his wheelchair and shimmied him up the tubes.
When they finally emerged, sweaty and laughing, all I saw was my son signing for "more." With a deep breath and a French fry for the road, they began the climb again. It turns out my husband is, in fact, a pretty handy dad.