Fatherhood Friday – Archie & Riley

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This is not our first Fatherhood Friday. It’s just been a long time since Archie stepped up to this plate. I asked him to write a post on this subject, and have asked him to try to continue writing posts as time/inspiration allows.  It’s always nice to get the other perspective from time to time 🙂 I’m writing this for a second point of view on our concerns for our daughter who has just started school. I would like to say first of all that although my wife and I don’t agree on every aspect, I love her and respect what she has to say.  No exceptions.  I love our kids the same way, with no exceptions.  Maybe I love them in different ways than each other, but no more or no less than the others.  This will be about our middle child, Riley. I knew the day would come where Riley would be old enough to go to school.  My wife championed homeschooling, while  I am a public education proponent.  We both had sound logic in our choices, but eventually one of us would have to give way.  Being small and comforting, the h/s milieu would provide stability and support as well as routine for Riley, as she loved things to be repetitious and consistent.  Public school would give her interaction with other kids, lots of them, and would help her to mainstream, just be a standard kid. By sheer persistence, I wore down Sarah to the point she would go along with me, albeit unconvinced I was making a good decision for Riley.  So, she went to school. Within the first few weeks, Riley lost her ability to remain calm.  At school, the excessive noise(holy god, kindergarten is insanely noisy), the shuffling of many small bodies, the closeness of the setting, and the newness of it all burned through her coping mechanisms like wildfire.  She literally hasn’t any defenses left.  Any accomplishments she might make, are made nil by erratic behavior.  She is suffering, trying desperately to keep from drowning, while the waves are just getting bigger. At home, Riley isn’t much different.  At times, she is silent, inconsistent, demanding, inconsolable, loud, and will take her stress out on the rest of us without warning.  Those are a lot of harsh adjectives to describe my sweet, little girl.  Make no mistake, I love my Riley more than the human heart is actually capable of handling. And that was my downfall.  I so wanted the “perfect”, “normal” life for her, that I became blind to who she was becoming in her own right.  Before school began, we had a little girl, who despite being diagnosed as autistic, was capable of emotions and moods in the range of everyone else.  Yes, at times she was a pistol.  And there were some problems we were not capable of handling.  But she was the best little girl she was ever capable of being, and more.  And I overlooked it. It’s easy to see where I went wrong, because I just wanted the best for Riley and didn’t want her to be burdened with the struggles I encountered at her age.  But she isn’t me.  She is her own, beautiful little person that has her own path to make.  We will find the best way for her, with her as a guide to help us make sure we keep her first and us second.  And her sister is coming along right behind with other special issues that will need to be met.  So, this will help in the long run. But I have the guilt of betraying my daughters faith and trust in me, I let her down.  And I also have the guilt of letting my wife down by not listening to what she was telling me.  As a parent, we all silently beat ourselves up over things we do to our kids that we wish didn’t. So, here I am.  I’m sorry, Riley, for not keeping you first and putting you in bad situation.  And I’m sorry, Sarah, for not being the husband and father I should always strive to be.  But, I promise to do better.  I love you guys. **** *Must note – the picture above is a meld. On the left is Archie as a young boy, on the right, Riley. Read more »

Real Men Don’t Cry (Part 3)

The things we take for granted in our lives is amazing.   We forget to stop and see the small miracles that occur every day, we just look for the big ones.  I’m guilty of that when it comes to Riley.  I thought she would grow and advance just like every other child.  I didn’t want for her to have the problems I had to go through.    We went to the geneticist for over a year before we got a diagnosis. He wanted to observe her and watch how she grew before he said anything definitive.  After so many visits he was finally ready to tell us.  The diagnosis was autism, specifically pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS).  My wife and I were stunned.  It didn’t change how much we loved her, looked at her, or treated her – but I felt responsible.  I was the one with all the problems growing up, and the lingering ones as an adult.  My wife had a typical childhood, no major problems to speak of. Her first child was neurotypical.  No, if Riley was ill, it was because of me and my blasted genetics. Riley was still not talking, or smiling much.  But she was playing “outside” of herself.  Any situation where a lot of people were involved made her extremely uncomfortable, often resulting in a “meltdown” as we called them.  She did not like for anyone to initiate touching or hold her unless it was herself.  We saw a little girl locked inside herself, and we had to find the keys.  As Molly grew, we were enrolled in an assistance program that helped us find and meet her special needs.  She met with various therapists each week to help her reach goals that were set forth to bring her development up to speed.  She also was able to attend a special needs pre-pre-school , which she started out very withdrawn, but ended up comfortable and playing/learning/chatting with the other kids and teachers.  My Riley was coming around, and I couldn’t have been prouder. Riley began to talk, she had been saying some words, but now she was really talking.  It was very difficult to understand her sometimes, at least for me.  My wife spent all day with her and it was easier for her to pick up Riley’s speech.  But she was improving.  Her weight was always on the low side, but her height was average to tall.  Her was growing, and it was long platinum blonde with curls at the end.  Her hair was very fine, but it was healthy.  Her appetite was increasing, but there were certain things she would not touch, probably due to texture or feel.  She would give quick hugs, and sometimes we could kiss her.  She was improving all the time, making big and small leaps in progress. Today Riley is a little personality.  She is still withdrawn and still has her “quirks” – but daily she reminds us of how far she’s come – and how much farther she is destined to go. I still struggle with what I’ve done right, or wrong – and with my own self-blame…but nothing cheers me like a hug and a kiss from my own mini-me. My Alligator. My Riley. ********* I apologize for the delay in the latest installment from Archie!!  I kept forgetting to edit it.  This was the final installment in the ‘Real Men Don’t Cry’ Portion.  I’m hoping to keep nudging the hubs to make posts on a variety of subjects – because I know he has a lot more to say!  So Fatherhood Fridays are far from over!! Read more »

by Sarah Cass

Multi-published author. Mom of 3 special needs kids. Wife to 1 good man.
Redefining Perfect every day.

Real Men Don’t Cry (Part 2)

See Part 1 by clicking HERE I never knew or met anyone who looked like me.  Someone who shared certain traits.  The connection was so amazing.  I could look into her eyes and see myself, no longer alone.  She was very special to me, in a way that most people would find hard to understand.  I found redemption for past failures and a bright future was suddenly ahead of me. Around 3-4 months old, Riley started crying after she ate.  At first, we just thought it was indigestion, it would pass.  But it didn’t.  The crying soon turned into screaming, her muscles were tensed, and she was unable to be soothed. A trip to the doctor soon turned into multiple trips, with fluoroscopes, tests, poking and prodding at my/our little girl.  We were told that it was a simple diagnosis, silent acid reflux and it could be corrected easily with medication and close monitoring.  That was okay, but she suffered for around three months in terrible pain and anguish, unable eat without it hurting her.  As she was getting better and able to eat without painful consequences, I started to notice that she was just not….right.  She was now very quiet, withdrawn, never smiled, and physically she was wasted.  Her doctor appointments were indicating no weight or height gains, even having lost weight at times.  Her hair was lifeless and dull, eyes were glassy most of the time, and her only method of communication was crying in distress.  She was drawing herself into a shell that neither my wife nor I could penetrate. All of this time I was in complete panic mode.  I finally had what I had been needing all of my life and she was slowly, painfully wasting away.  Babies are supposed to be chubby and full, but she was bones and flesh.  My wife and I supported each other as best we could, but I anguished terribly inside.  I wondered if I didn’t get help for her soon enough, or if I failed to see the signs and in turn failed her.  I can’t explain how it feels to be so alone in the world, not really connected to anything.  How many people take for granted that they have mother’s eyes, their fathers’ hands, that little half smile that started at the corner of their mouth just like their grandfathers in their youth.  I had none of those things until Riley was born.  Now I was in danger of losing that.  Many sleepless nights, staring at the wall.  What was to become of her, and me? I know how selfish it sounds that my happiness was linked to hers, but that’s the way it was.  For a while, we didn’t really know for sure that she was gonna make it.  We met with other doctors, and then a geneticist.  The geneticist was really able to help us with our fears and concerns.  We didn’t like all of the answers, but he was honest and straightforward.  We bulked up her milk rations and worked constantly to improve her state of mind.  One of her issues was revealed to be an oral aversion.  She didn’t want food, she wouldn’t talk, and she would not let anyone look at her teeth which by this time were causing her some discomfort as they do all babies.  But she never showed us or told us if something hurt, if she was happy, if she didn’t like something, nada.  Zip.  Nothing.  The scariest for me part was not knowing if she was really in there or if she was gone forever.  She looked like a little zombie most days.  My heart ached and weighed three tons. After several months, the added nutrients began to work, her hair started growing again, and had shine & luster to it.  Her little body started to fill in just a bit, she would still be a skinny child given her parents, but we were okay with that.  Anything but the bones that cast shadows.  She was still withdrawn most of the time, but we began to see signs of life.  She began to show interest in things outside of herself.  She could complete ten of the wooden type puzzles with letters, numbers, and shapes, at one time.  Amazing.  She didn’t so much play with her toys as she did organize them with razor sharp straightness.  She walked at just under a year, which we felt was pretty good considering her delays.  She walked on her tiptoes a lot, my wife thought she would become a dancer.  She became frightened at loud sounds like motorcycles, hot rod cars, loud bangs or crashes, and would often cover her ears.  She did like for the tv to be louder, so it basically drowned out other noise.  It was difficult to get her attention; sometimes it seemed as if she were somewhere else.  But we were slowly getting her back.  I thanked whatever higher power that heard our pleas.  I also began to relax, uncoil, and enjoy her. **** I am very grateful today is Fatherhood Friday and that Archie had stepped up with a post because I’m sick as a dog, and so are the girls.  I will try to be back tomorrow – if not in time for my Weekly Winners – but there are no guarantees.  I feel like death, just ask Archie. Read more »