Author: Dan Holmes
This blog is taken from work Dan has contributed to the Holmes’ upcoming book: Embracing the Autism Spectrum: Finding Hope & Joy Navigating the NeuroDiverse Family Journey
As I reflect back on the journey our family has taken, it's impossible not to acknowledge the moments I missed. I am Dan – the dad and husband in this narrative that has largely been Stephanie's perspective until now. My role in our family dynamics wasn't absent, but it was passive. I would listen to the events, nod in agreement, and occasionally participate, but I realize now that my involvement lacked depth and presence.
From the girls' perspective, our weekends were filled with play and laughter. They had the essentials and more – a comfortable home, nourishing food, clothing, toys, and school. Dress-up and our playful game of "Freddie the Fish" became cherished memories. But what they couldn't see, and what I didn't communicate, was my advocacy for them. I left that responsibility to Stephanie. I didn't fully stand beside her in the challenges she faced while fighting for our daughters' well-being and future.
Regrettably, I didn't offer her the support she needed most during those times. The pressure and disappointment that grew in her heart were outcomes of my absence – not a physical absence, but an emotional one. I was there, yet strangely distant. I didn't realize the pain she carried underneath her outward frustrations. Each complaint or irritation was part of a larger theme that I failed to see, a theme that would eventually manifest in ways I never expected.
My silence, my passive approach, robbed her of a partner in navigating the storm. I lacked engagement not only with the practical challenges but, more importantly, with her. I failed to express curiosity about her feelings or experiences. I was oblivious to the depth of her struggles, and this lack of presence allowed negativity from the periphery to seep in unchecked.
When I say "silent," I don't mean just words. I mean a wholehearted engagement with her – a commitment to understand and cherish her. My generosity was one-dimensional, my gestures of love often limited to empty promises. While I didn't need or want much myself, I projected this onto her. This one-dimensional approach left her feeling unfulfilled, longing for a connection that extended beyond material gestures.
My lack of interest and curiosity further exacerbated the divide. While she was a person of many projects and tasks, I didn't make the effort to share in those interests. I didn't communicate that she was cherished, that her presence in my life was a gift. I realize now that I should have fought for her attention, for moments of togetherness that communicated her intrinsic value to me.
Finding creative outlets for these expressions of love could have alleviated some of the pressure. It wasn't about grand gestures, but consistent efforts to connect. Investing in each family member, truly engaging with their worlds, is an invaluable endeavor. It might require effort and practice, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Reflecting on Sydney, I remember a moment when I handled her insecurity well. During a tough week, I took her to a movie, just the two of us. She questioned why she was rewarded despite her misbehavior. I responded that sometimes rewards come from being yourself. Looking back, I could have elaborated on this idea, reinforcing her worth beyond her actions. This sentiment should have been a regular occurrence, offering hope during tough times.
This level of engagement should be ongoing, not limited to challenging periods. Building joy and connection within the family should be a constant effort. It's not something that expires when children grow up, move away, or start families of their own. Even when distance separates us, the affirmation that we are interested in their lives remains vital.
The journey of life often disappoints, revealing that even in places where we expect righteousness, there can be wickedness. Yet, these trials are opportunities for growth. They refine us, teaching us resilience in the face of adversity. Our burdens, whether light or heavy, connect us as humans, and as Christians, we are called to support one another through these trials.
Bearing our own crosses is a difficult path, one that Christ himself walked. It's not meant to be easy, but through it, we find strength and transformation. In times of light, when our burdens seem manageable, we must also be prepared to share the load of others. Galatians 6:2 reminds us of this responsibility, urging us to bear each other's burdens.
As I look back on my journey as a husband and father, I see where I fell short. I recognize the importance of active engagement, of communicating love and interest through actions and words. My hindsight reflection serves as a reminder to all parents and spouses – our roles are not merely passive. We must actively invest in the lives of our loved ones, building connections that withstand the challenges of life.
The Audio Book is now available at:
Print book is scheduled for December 27th of 2023! The ebook is available now!