Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daddy's (not so typical) Little Girl...

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him…"
Psalm 103:13 

My heart is never as full as when I walk in to see my husband interacting with Elise.  Sometimes he is just caring for her needs by feeding her through her g-tube, dressing her for church, or giving her the various daily medications that she requires.  They also share times spent together in a closer nature.  Rubbing his nose against hers, brushing his facial hair with her hand to let her know who is there, tickling her to make her squeal, or merely kissing and hugging on her, all become special moments between the two.  Elise’s absolute favorite thing to do with her daddy is to have her hair brushed.  Starting at just a few years old, she would lean back in Chris’ lap and relax while having her hair combed through.  This proved to be a wonderful activity for them both, and has continued on all of these years.  
When I think about it, moments like this that can be special between a daddy and a daughter don’t come often between Chris and Elise.  As far as the daddy/daughter relationship goes, you definitely won’t find theirs on a Father’s day card or in a sappy commercial.  What they have may be different and challenging, but it’s all he, as her father, knows. 
I, personally, have a deep, aching pain associated with losing Elise as that typical daughter I so longed to have.  Over time, I found myself assuming that Chris didn’t share the same feelings of loss as I did.  After all, he has two healthy boys.  Men want boys, right?  After taking the time to truly think about what it means to him, though, I saw a level of disappointment and hurt that is definitely experienced by Chris, the daddy.  He has managed to dodge the everyday pains that I still suffer-- like watching other girls her age playing at the playground, or dwelling on what it would sound like to hear her talk, sing, and fight with her brothers!  However, behind that rough exterior, I know for a fact that Chris has an immense soft spot for his baby girl.  We have been asked to speak to our church as well as to different Sunday school classes over the years, sharing our testimony and our life with Elise.  I am always the one who speaks, but in the few times that Chris wanted to say a few words, tears always found their way into his eyes, welling up with just the mention of his daughter.   Where I have become hardened and tough with my outward emotions regarding Elise, Chris still harbors raw feelings of sensitivity and heartache.  Not for what he is missing as her dad, but for what she is missing as his daughter.  
The fact that Chris can’t relate to other dads with daughters as they talk about the ins and outs of raising a little girl doesn’t make him any less of a daddy.  Instead of helping her put on ballet shoes, he straps on her foot braces.  When other dads sit down with their daughters to play a game or spend some quality time together, Chris carries Elise to her therapy chair and sets her up in her light room to explore hanging toys and textures on her tray.  While most dads say prayers with their children at night, Chris can pray for her just the same.  
The ways that he can show his love are limited, but they are there.  He loves her by giving her medications.  He loves her by creating therapy equipment out of PVC pipe, twinkle lights, and duct tape.  He loves her by drawing out hidden giggles by vigorously scratching her head.  He loves her by rushing to her side in the middle of the night when he is awakened by her cries.  
I have to admit, Chris’ daddy duties were questionable after we had our first child, Lane.  There were many nights that I wondered how I would make it through one more day and night of newborn crying while watching my husband snore in our bed, oblivious to the deep pit into which I was falling.  It took him a little while to fully and completely step into the role of “father/supportive husband”, but once he did, he never looked back.  He cringes now as he remembers some of his actions and comments from those early days of fatherhood.  
By the time Elise came along, though, he was already a pro.  He was up with her at night, helping with therapy, traveling all over North America for treatments, rocking her, loving her, and giving me the rest I so desperately needed.  Elise’s birth forced us both into “Super” mode.  No rest for the weary!  Still now, Chris is there for the never-ending diaper changes, nights of getting up to calm her screams, putting her in and out of the bathtub, in and out of the van, in and out of her wheelchair.  It only gets harder…  For a man who, himself, didn’t grow up with a father, Chris is an incredible example to any man facing everyday fatherhood, or the trials of raising a child with disabilities.
When Elise was an infant, we would travel out of town to receive Hyperbaric Treatments.  I remember a mother of another special needs child complimenting Chris on staying with our family after Elise was born.  She gave me the statistics of the rate of divorce among families with special needs children.  It is astronomically high.  I thought it was interesting that this mother was almost patting Chris on the back for not leaving us.  It was a funny moment for me, because the thought had never crossed my mind.  I knew who I married when I said, “I do”.  I knew Chris inside and out.  I think that the better compliment to him, as Elise’s daddy and as my husband, was that this was never something that I had to fear.  There’s truly no better gift that Elise could have received as a daughter or that I could have been given as a wife, than to have Chris lead our family.  
Chris’ relationship with Elise will always be bound by her inability to interact in a normal way, and that makes me sad.  But, when I think of the ways he has found to stay connected with her, it makes me smile instead...

  • He won’t walk her down the aisle, but he will push her wheelchair everywhere we go.  
  • He won’t enjoy her children as a grandpa, but he will enjoy her for as long as God allows.  
  • He won’t take her to a Daddy/Daughter dance, but he will rock her when she is hurting, tired, or just plain sad.
  • He won’t warn her about boys, but he will protect her the best he can from the hardships of growing up with a brain injury. 
  • He won’t read her fairy tales at bedtime, but he will treat her like a Princess.  
From fathers to daughters, love runs deep.  This is no exception with Elise and her daddy.   With never a word spoken between them, they still share that primal connection of -- I love you because you are a part of me.  I can imagine Elise, if given the chance to be a healthy little girl, would look up at Chris, grab his big, rugged hand and announce to the world -- 

This is my Daddy!”

"The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out."
Proverbs 10:9

This is the last picture of Chris and me B.E. (that’s Before Elise).  He was by my side through the scariest days of my pregnancy, and he was excited to become a daddy to a little girl!

This is the first picture of Chris and me after Elise was born.  We knew what we were facing, but were confident we could face it together…

Big Daddy...Tiny Girl

Nose to Nose

Out to eat with Daddy

Like father, like daughter!

Chris and Elise on a train ride at the Argyle Pumpkin Patch.  We go every year, and were sad when Elise became too tall to fit on our lap in the train car. 

Daddy and newborn Elise.  Try and put her in bed with you now, and it feels as if you are sleeping with a monkey with all the kicking, screaming, and arm flailing!  I can’t even remember back on the time when she was this peaceful to sleep with!

I have tons of pics of Chris sleeping with the kids.  He doesn’t think as quick on his feet when I fall asleep with them.  Oh, well.  I probably wouldn’t like the way I looked asleep, anyway!

Chris has taken Elise swimming many times over the years.  In hotel pools, my mom’s backyard pool, and our neighborhood pool.  The bigger she gets, the harder it is, but her special life jacket makes it easier.  I don’t have any pics of her in it.  I’m slacking...

Hospital Stays - Daddy's Always There!

Chris rocking Elise at our first visit/stay at Children’s a few days after her birth.  (Big brother, Lane, at the first of many, many, many doctor visits!)

Elise’s first of many EEGs after seizures started.  Chris was there to support her and me!

Daddy loving on Elise after a surgery.  

Chris and my mom with Elise before a surgery.  He worries just as much as I do when she goes under for a procedure…

Chris visiting Elise in the hospital with her little brother, Ty.

Chris and Elise at mealtime

Chris taking a break from work to visit Elise at an end of school celebration for her PPCD class.

Proud Daddy and pretty baby girl!

Chris holding Elise before her “dip”.  Lane, Elise's big brother, and Chris were baptized together last year at our church.  I am forever grateful to our church leaders for also including Elise in a private ceremony.  Because she cannot profess her acceptance of Christ, we did not consider it a traditional Baptist baptism.  Instead, we saw it as a dedication or promise to God that we will trust Him with her soul.  Chris went in with her, and the experience was uplifting and very satisfying for me as her mama.  

Chris put in countless hours doing ABR, an intense form of therapy targeting Elise’s physical issues related to CP.  He took off work to travel all over with Elise and me, willing to give up hours and days of his life to put toward helping Elise.  

Resting with Daddy

Dr. Daddy, ready to treat Sissy himself while waiting on those pesky doctors!!!

There will always be room on Daddy’s lap for at least 2 of his 3 kiddos at a time!

Hair Brushing Through The Years...

Elise’s favorite time with Chris.  She will sit for as long as he will comb.

Thank You, Jesus,
 for giving us a “Special” Father for a 
“Special” little girl...


  1. Precious thoughts about your little girl's daddy! Nothing is more heart warming than seeing any daddy with his little girl. But, I agree, there is something special when that little girl "isn't typical". I struggle with my own 16-year-old daughter's relationship with her daddy (my husband of 22 years). My husband can barely sign to her (although Brielle is fairly fluent, but not deaf, just cannot speak)and does little to care for her daily needs (not that he's not willing, I've just taken over in typical "SuperMom" fashion). But then all he has to do is laugh like Scooby-Doo or try to tickle her, and she lights up like no other time. Fathers and daughters have a special bond that is uniquely their own. Thanks for sharing about your daughter and her daddy!

  2. Elise is adorable. It is heart warming to see God gave her such a caring father.