If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you watch this video by The Telegraph’s cartoonist Bob Moran on becoming a dad. Warning: You’ll need tissues—lots of them.
The release was perfect for Father’s Day, but it struck a different chord for me. After my four-year-old daughter Syona’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy, I knew she needed me to be her parent above all else. Yes, I was her advocate, her secretary, chauffeur and her therapist at times, but I was her mom first and foremost, learning as I went and cheering her along every step of the way. We’ve generally been pretty good about celebrating and laughing freely. After my husband Dilip watched the video he commented on how closely he identified with Bob, especially the moment where he gave a quick greeting to Syona before she was whisked away moments after she was born. But it was this part that resonated with us both:
“I wasn’t supposed to be the hero in all of this. There were plenty of them. Doctors, nurses, physios, paramedics and a little girl who showed me what it really means to be determined and brave and strong. She taught me that just being Dad is more than enough.”
It reminded me how far we’ve come, in the past year especially. Syona finished her first year of school. She had a bit of a rocky transition and it took her time to find her rhythm. Truth be told, it took me a lot of time to find mine, too.
I started out the school year as Syona’s communicator, advocate and co-ordinator. The role of “mom” took a backseat. It was exhausting and not at all what I’d imagined. It took a toll on me and was exacerbated by the fact that Syona would come home during the first couple of months in a bad mood. In addition to being tired, she just wasn’t herself. This was a tough pill for me to swallow, as all I craved during this period was some time with my little girl, to talk through her challenges and make sure we were still connecting.
But slowly, with the help of Syona’s school team, her early intervention team, a service co-ordinator and Syona herself, the pieces of our puzzle began to fall into place. It ultimately felt so smooth and seamless that it was only after watching this video that I realized why things have felt so good lately: Because I’m a mom, first and foremost again. Being in this role helps me realize all the amazing things Syona has accomplished this past year, from wheeling herself around to initiating conversations to her rapidly growing passion for books. I’m one proud mama.
As for Dilip, over the past year he’s learned just how much he needs to do to be her dad and not be overwhelmed by it all. Being Syona’s dad means multiple pieces of equipment, attending extra appointments, setting boundaries and sometimes saying “no” to her random whims, desires and instructions.
It’s been a big year for all of us. While I know I’ll always have to advocate for Syona and eventually transition into backing her up as she advocates for herself, I think I’ve learned a new strategy, too. When things feel like too much to handle, and I’m too stressed or the pieces of the puzzle aren’t falling into place, I will remind myself to chill out and focus on the role I love the most—being Syona’s mom.
Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.