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Fight Monsters, Conquer Fatherhood

Christine Pafumi
June 1, 2012

One dad shares his journey in raising a daughter with a special need as part of the Care.com Interview Series.

When Rob Rummel-Hudson's daughter Schuyler was born with a brain malformation that made her unable to speak intelligibly, he started putting words to her silent journey in his blog, Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords.

In a world where, according to Hummel-Hudson, fatherhood has been defined by "absence," he strives to be totally present in his daughter's world. This dad blogger shares how his daughter helps turn menial activities into adventures, and why he thinks dads everywhere are changing the face of fatherhood today.

Tell us about your family.

Julie and I have been married for thirteen years and have one daughter, Schuyler, who is twelve. Schuyler was born with a brain malformation called polymicrogyria that leaves her unable to speak intelligibly, among other things, but she is a tenacious and funny little girl with a very distinct sense of style.

Why did you decide to start blogging? What is your ultimate goal?

I had actually been writing online for a really long time, since 1995. I was writing about being a new father after Schuyler was born, and it was mostly just funny stuff. New dad trying to figure out how to keep his baby alive, that sort of thing. When she was diagnosed with polymicrogyria at the age of three, suddenly my writing changed, and I guess I found a kind of purpose. I find satisfaction in putting that story out there, and in connecting with other parents who might find themselves in the same place.

In the blogging world, there is so much out there about moms. What role do you think Dad blogs can play in that space?

One of the things that is so exciting about fatherhood in this society at the time is that it's wide open to interpretation, and to new ways of fulfilling that role. I think that for the better part of the last century, certainly since the Second World War, American fatherhood has been defined a great deal by absence. Now that narrative is changing...so suddenly we have a chance to shape that story, and dad bloggers are in the position to shape that in a very real way.

Tell me about what you didn't know about fatherhood. What's surprised you? What were you expecting?

I think the thing that was the most surprising was just the depth of love I could feel for my daughter. That love manifests itself in fear and paranoia and constant worry, but also in a way that enriches my life and makes me a whole person, in ways I never would have anticipated.

The first few months of parenthood can be trying - as a dad, how did you feel most useful the first six months? What did mom need the most in your experience?

The best thing I could do was just be available. We worked opposite schedules for a while, and that meant that we were both doing solo parenting in roughly equal amounts. It wasn't ideal, but it spread the load evenly, and I think that made a huge difference in keeping our energy levels up.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you had before becoming a father?

I think maybe to just find my own way. My wife and I don't have to cover the same ground. I wish I'd figured out from the beginning that if I played to my own strengths, l would find my way a lot sooner.

How do you stay out of mommy's doghouse? What advice would you give to all the new dads out there?

The key isn't to get it right all the time, or even most of the time. The key is to be present. It really is that simple. Be present in the moment, and ready for whatever comes your way. This is a generation of involved fathers, and I think that's just about the greatest thing ever.

What is the hardest part about being a dad?

As the father of a child with a disability, the hardest part is being faced with challenges that I can't fix. It's something I struggle with to this day.

The best part of being a dad is...

Seeing the world fresh through my daughter's eyes. A trip to the grocery store becomes an adventure; every baseball game feels like the World Series. The world is still so big to her, and I get to experience it that way, too.

Tell us about the best Father's Day you've ever had!

We do Father's Day in a pretty low-key way. Every year, we go to my favorite barbecue place, and eat obscene amounts of food. It then takes me the full twelve months to recover.

Kids want to know: What does Dad want MOST for Father's Day?

Sleep. Uninterrupted sleep. (Good news: it's a great gift for Mother's Day, too.)

What are the three best tips you can give a new Dad?

  1. Pay attention
  2. Be flexible
  3. And remember that it will all be over before you know it, so whatever you do, don't miss a moment if you can. Nothing else you do in your life is going to come close to this.

Get more laughs and tips in the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Daddy Survival 101 ยป

Rob Rummel-Hudson writes about his experiences as the father of a daughter with a brain malformation, called polymicrogyria, in his blog, Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords, where he is able to connect with other parents with similar situations. Rummel-Hudson's first book, "Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter," and his work can be found in numerous publications. He currently lives in Texas with his wife Julie and daughter Schuyler. Follow Rob on Twitter.

Image used with permission from Rob Rummel-Hudson.

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