I am a father of five, two of my sons were born with a rare disorder that includes a number of disabilities and challenges which classified them as “special needs” children. To leap forward a very long way I can tell you that both boys have done exceptionally well in their lives, they have outlived every prognosis placed upon them, and today both lead active and interesting lives. My older son Adam lives with a wonderful family as a disabled adult, and enjoys frequent travel, swimming, movies, and loves to eat. My youngest son Matthew just graduated from high school with a straight A average and has started college. I named this organization to honor my two sons who have to date shown me it is the heart that makes the person, my boys who have changed me by their strength, perseverance, and their dauntless hope.
It has been a long road. In the beginning, doctors told us our older son would never live past 5. With a lot of hurdles to cross, including his vision and hearing impairments, he completed high school with flying colors. My younger son was more seriously affected at birth, his doctors told us he would most probably not live past six months. He was pronounced deaf and blind shortly after he was born.
I’ve lived over half my life as the father of special needs children, and I suppose my experiences could fill a lot of books. If there was a mistake to be made, I probably made it. In reality though most of those experiences as a dad are not so unique to me. Fathers everywhere go through many similar things, juggling jobs, relationships, bills, maintaining friendships and keeping up the home and yard, being Dad to the other kids, all while taking care of the details involved in raising a special needs child. It’s like living in two different worlds, worlds which rarely meet but when they do it can be a major collision. We come from all walks of life, we are in all income brackets, all levels of education, all races, and include every personality under the sun. So what brings us together is not the uniqueness of ourselves, but the shared experience that most often our “normal” friends fail to fully comprehend.
For many men, it becomes a very lonely road. In the beginning, there can be a rally of support and interest, but as time adds up people often tend to disappear from our lives. In my experience and observations for every guy out there who has great support from family, friends, church, neighbors…there is at least one other guy who struggles alone in the middle of the night wondering how he is going to make it work when the medical bills and prescriptions take so much out of his paycheck that there is little left for food. A constant stream of responsibilities parade through your mind as you worry about your other children, your wife, your marriage, the future, all of which are impacted by a situation you are powerless to control or change.
And it is an extraordinary experience. You learn things, meet people, and have insights into a side of life that expands your mind and comprehension not only of existence, but of who you really are. It’s a life that few would ever deliberately choose, that quite often challenges you beyond anything you could have imagined in your youthful dreams of how your life will unfold. This organization, and this site, are dedicated to reaching the fathers who are hungry for companionship on the road, for friends who understand what this unusual life is all about, and who are keen to both receive encouragement and empowerment, as well as give it to others. It’s about pulling together to enable each of us to achieve the greatest success possible out of our lives, out of raising our children, all while becoming our very best selves. It is about finding purpose in a challenging circumstance, it’s about finding faith that may not fit into words. It’s about empathetically understanding that this life is very often a repeating cycle of stress, trauma, grieving, questioning, anger, and disappointment chased by hope, moments of laughter, extraordinary experiences, healing, and realizing deeper levels of relationships.
We are about helping each other build a new world when the old world is crumbling beneath our feet, and finding our place in an unexpected and unusual life’s journey. We are about empowering one another to realize that situations of life are not necessarily meant to crush us, but to create us.
Welcome to our website and amg4d! We look forward to your participation and sharing this road together.
Brian K Wulf, Founder and President of amg4d: The Adam & Matthew Group 4 Dads & Families