Being a good dad includes being able to roll with whatever comes your way. Some might think that, since I use a wheelchair, I’d have the “rolling” thing down by now. Literally, I do; figuratively, I’m a work in progress.
Growing up with muscular dystrophy, I had serious doubts about whether having a family would ever happen for me. Would I find someone who could see past my disability? And if I did, what kind of father would I be? I hoped for life as a husband and father; I just didn’t know if I would get it.
And then it happened: marriage, followed two years later by the wonderful news that we were having a baby. A year and a half later, more great news came: a second child was on the way.
And just like that, I was married with two kids—daughters, no less, which was crazy because even when I dared dream of having a family, for some reason I always pictured sons—yet further proof that I had no clue of what lay ahead of me.
But I “trust[ed] in the Lord with all [my] heart” (Proverbs 3:5). Put differently, I rolled with it.
I rolled with it when my sweetheart, Casey, went into labor and said, “It’s time,” and I about passed out. I rolled with it when the nurse held our brand-new baby girl in front of me and said, “She’s yours now,” and I gave Isabelle a kiss on the forehead. I rolled with it and shaved my facial hair when my scratchy kisses made her cry. And I even rolled with it when, while I was holding her on my lap, her dirty diaper gave out—fatherhood can be messy.
Being able to roll with it—to adapt—has been a key to any successes I’ve had as a dad and in life. I’ve gone from crawling to walking to running to getting weaker to slowing down to losing the ability to walk and using a wheelchair. At each phase, to make it work I’ve had to adapt to my circumstances and play to the abilities Heavenly Father has given me. It’s an important part of fatherhood.
Turns out, without even knowing it, I’ve been training to be a great dad my whole life!
Why do I know so much about lambs, dolphins, mermaids, dolls, book characters, cross-country running, and musicals? Because those are the things my youngest daughter, Sammy, has been interested in over the past 14 years! Find out what your kids are into and get into it too.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “Find your own best way to connect,” creating a one-on-one relationship with each child as part of our fatherly stewardship. 1
I’ve never tossed my girls in the air. I’ve never pushed them on a swing, jumped into a pool with them, or spotted them in the gym.
But they’ve screamed for joy on the back of my wheelchair as I did wheelies through our neighborhood, climbed me like a ladder to reach goodies on the top shelf, and enjoyed incredible front-row parking with me their entire lives.
We all have different abilities. Figure out what you can do with your kids and then do it!
My girls have an amazing understanding of my physical limitations. We’ve never really had to detail what Daddy can or cannot physically do. They’ve always just seemed to know. Even when they were toddlers, I would ask them to grab something for me, and they’d place it right in my hand. When Casey would ask for something, they’d toss it to her or hold it near her so she’d have to reach out for it.
Being a dad has been and continues to be the joy of my life.
When I’m being the best version of myself, I love my girls the way God loves them—personally and completely. But I’m not perfect. When I’m not centered in God’s love, patience wanes, tempers flare, and feelings get hurt. Like I said before, I’m a work in progress.
Dads come from all walks of life and have different strengths and weaknesses. But thanks to the love, grace, and mercies of an all-loving Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can all be empowered to be exactly who and what our children need us to be.
I know our Heavenly Father will endow each of us with the strength needed to be the best dad we can be. When we seek His help and direction, blessings will follow and, come what may, we’ll have the ability to roll with it.