A Gift to My Husband on Father’s Day

Kerry Fender by Kerry Fender Additional Needs

Kerry Fender

Kerry Fender

Down’s Syndrome, my family and me – one mum’s account of family life with an extra chromosome.

I am generally a happy person, not because I find myself in happy circumstances, but because I choose to be happy.

But, stubbornly positive though I am, even I have my vulnerabilities.

The following post was prompted by a particularly rough weekend, in which the past reared its rose-tinted head and reminded both me and my husband that not only were our lives once completely different, they were once completely separate: that we were once with very different people doing very different things.

At any given time in our lives then either one of us might have faced a sliding-doors moment, in which we could have taken an alternative exit to another future altogether.

I began to wonder whether my husband wished he had gone another way instead.

My husband is a practical man.

He is not particularly sentimental, and not in the least materialistic – he has no interest in acquiring things beyond those which are immediately necessary or useful to fulfilling the basic needs of daily life.

What do you give a man like this as a Father’s Day gift?

There is, perhaps, one thing that he might crave. It’s not an object I could gift-wrap. It’s not something he would ever ask for, or even openly admit to wanting.

I am the only person who could give it to him, and I would, if I had the courage.

I would give him Freedom.

Yes, you heard me right, I would set him free.

I would open the door of the legally-binding cage of marriage, unfasten the cumbersome tether of duty, and let him fly away.

I’d set him free to find the thing all his mates have; the one thing they had as kids that he might have envied; the one thing I can’t give him – the peace-of-mind of a normal, easy, family life.

I’d set him free to find a strong, independent, capable woman.

One with a job title he could be proud of in front of his mates and colleagues: who amazes everyone she knows by finding enough hours in the day to work full-time and manage the house and kids to perfection and chair the school PTFA, and still has the energy to keep herself in shape at the gym.

A woman who is always a fascinating and supportive companion: a woman who makes him laugh and is his best friend, instead of a dead weight around his neck.

I’d set him free to go and find a life where he could go off with his mates to the pub, a gig, or a boys’ weekend, without feeling that he must hurry back to help his wife cope with a child whose delayed development means that he does not understand why he must cooperate when he doesn’t want to, but is so big that his mother can’t lift him when it becomes imperative that he move from A to B.

I’d set him free to find a life where he’d be able to drop his kids on any one of several babysitters at short notice, and go off for a night out, a weekend away or even a child-free holiday.

I’d set him free to be able to relax and enjoy a meal in a restaurant with family and friends and not have to worry that his child, who was the embodiment of charm when he entered the restaurant, will suddenly metamorphose into a spitting, food-throwing fury because of some infinitesimal change in the atmosphere of the room.

I’d set him free to be able to enjoy a kickabout in the park, kite-flying on the field, or a just ramble in the woods without having to worry that his child may suddenly run off, or drop to the floor and refuse to move.

I’d set him free from worry about the future, whether that’s thirty years into the future, when we’re no longer here to look after our son, or thirty minutes hence, when he has to leave the relatively peaceful and orderly world of work and return to whatever is awaiting him at home.

I’d set him free to allow him to observe for himself that I could manage on my own, to prove to him that I could and would find a way around our difficulties, and however unorthodox or ‘creative’ my solutions were, they would work in the long run.

Most of all, I would set him free to see if he would come back.


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