There are benefits to being an asthma dad. This was the topic of a recent post of mine at MyAsthmaCentral.com.
The Seven Benefits to being an Asthma Dad
Rick Frea, June 7, 2010, @ MyAsthmaCentral.com
Previously I have written the seven benefits asthma and the seven ways asthma has benefited my life. Now, in light of the upcoming dad's day, I've decided it's time to write about the 7 benefits of being a dad with asthma.
However, before I jump into the benefits, I must first mention the disadvantages of being a dad with asthma. Here we go:
No hunting lessons: I'm allergic to just about everything you can name in the woods, so hunting is out of the question. So if my kids ever want to hunt, they'll have to rely on someone other than dad.
No carpentry work: I'm allergic to wood. That's right! I can't even touch it without breaking into hives, and wood dust causes asthma. Hence, my kids won't learn how to build things from dad.
No camping: Actually I'll go camping from time to time, yet there are usually consequences, mainly due to all the campfire smoke. So when my kids want to spend lots of time camping, they have to get a hold of grandpa.
No pets: Sorrry kids, but no cats, no dogs, no rats and, well, simply no pets. It's just not going to happen. And it's not because I don't love animals.
Actually, what I just listed above are the greatest challenges of being a dad with asthma. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little vexed when my wife hires someone to do work around the house I know I'm fully capable of doing. Yet because of my asthma I simply can't.
Yet those moments quickly pass as I'm surrounded by three happy and giggling children who are happy with their dad just the way he is. Which brings me to the benefits of being a dad with asthma:
1. Empathy: Since I was sick a lot as a kid I'm more likely to sit up late at night with sick kids. And when my asthmatic daughter's having asthma trouble, her dad is well aware of the early warning signs of asthma and what to do. This has also made me a more patient dad.
2. Patience: Having to be cope with all those childhood asthma attacks has made me a very patient person. This dad has spent many hours sitting up with sick kids, or letting the kids play on the playground an extra 15 minutes, or reading books, or doing homework, and rocking kids to sleep. I'm also known to play catch with my 12-year old son for hours at a time, and when I'm done play catch with my 7-year-old daughter, and then patiently follow my 1.5-year-old daughter around as she enjoys the outdoors. I know there's a lot of dads that don't do these things. Ideally, a greater duration spent with my kids will make them more astute.
3. Astute: All that reading I did while my dad and brothers were out in the woods, or camping, has definitely benefited the way I parent. Likewise, having asthma forced me to go to college, and this allowed me to get a nice job as an RT. So, as opposed to being overworked in a factory like three of my brothers, I only work three twelve hour shiifts a week. This allows for more quality time at home, and more time for family vacations.
4. Industry: Ben Franklin proclaimed that one should never waste time, and should always be employed in something useful. Since I spend less time employed in hunting, fixing things, and at work, this allows me to spend more quality time reading, writing, and being a good dad. Hopefully this is allowing me to create many positive and indellable impressions on my children.
5. Temperance: Another of Franklin's 13 Virtues mentions eating not to dullness, drinking not to elevation. Having asthma has forced me to pay particular attention to this virtue, as eating too much, and drinking too much, can lead to difficult to manage asthma. I can't help thinking my kids have learned good eating habits from their old man. The other day at McDonalds I offered a choice to my 7-year-old french fries or apple dippers, and she chose the healthier option.
6. Impressions: Because of my asthma I spent more time with my mom than my dad, and therefore I developed a good relationship with my mother (this is actually a common occurrance among asthmatic boys). Since my mom loved children, I developed a love for children. So, unlike some dads, this one loves spending time with his kids, attending ballgames, and even changing diapers. Likewise, I can't help to think that by observing their dad doing these things, along with write and read and all that fun stuff, that my children will develop similar interests.
7. Humility: As I wrote before, time spent in a hospital tends to give one a greater perspective on life, a greater sense of vulnerability, and a sense that you are not invincible. This leads one to have a greater sense for those things of which we have no control, and to have an appreciation for the greater power of God. In this way, I can't help to believe my children will follow my example and, as Franklin advises, "Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
I can't help but to think asthma has made me a better dad. I think of this when I'm sitting up late at night with my asthmatic daughter, or when I give my son the remote control and he tunes in to the History Channel instead of Nickelodeon, or when he hangs out with a kid from school not because he wants to but, as he said, "I didn't want to hurt his feelings."
It's neat to think that something that once caused me so much grief in the past has made me not simply a better person, but a better dad too. It's like that old saying, "If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger."