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I'm Sorry: An open letter to my children

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

To my children - my little marvels,

I am writing you this letter to tell you how sorry I am.

But first and foremost I want you to know that I love you.

You may already know by the time you read this that I am not the best communicator. I am generally quite articulate, I use long words and I can talk about complex issues. However, I am not good at making general conversation and I do not find it easy to talk about my feelings. Both of these things are far outside of my comfort zone and they make me very uncomfortable. This is because I am Autistic.

I am generally more skilled at writing than I am at talking. I love writing reports, critically analysing subjects and writing formal letters. When I started writing this letter I thought I would have no trouble at all. To my surprise writing down my feelings is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to write, but I don't want to shy away from the things in life that are hard. You mustn't either. You will find so many things in life that are challenging, often more so than everyone else around you, but remember; from the toughest challenges come the greatest rewards. You are Autistic too. This is why you will find difficulty in places where others will find relative ease. In those moments you may feel like giving up. You may even wish that you were like them, but you are not. You must persevere because you will overcome those challenges and the things you find hard will get easier. As time passes, you will come to realise that Autism isn't a weakness, because where the others meet their challenges, you will come to understand that these are the things you meet with ease. Some of these things you may even excel at. You will come to realise that for every time you feel your Autism is a curse, there will also be a time where you feel it is a blessing.

My challenge right now is finding the words to explain to you how I am feeling and why I am sorry. I will not shy away from this because it is one of the most important things I will ever do for you. I have written you this letter to tell you how sorry I am and to offer you some explanation so that hopefully you won't make the same mistakes as I have.

I am sorry for not being your Daddy. I have been physically present like your Dad should be. I have provided for you as your father should do. I have set boundaries for you like your parent should.

But, I have failed you emotionally, I have failed to give you enough of my energy, I have failed to give you enough happiness and I have failed to show you enough love. There are no excuses in the world that could ever justify failing to be your Dad. Explanations are all I can possibly offer to you - not so that you forgive me - just so that you might understand.

Being Autistic is not an excuse for me not meeting your emotional needs or not showing you enough love. Having ill health is not an excuse for not giving you enough of my energy or making you feel enough happiness. They are explanations, but I don't accept them as excuses and neither should you.

I am sorry for all the times when you hurt yourself; when you stubbed your toe, you bumped your head, you tripped over - and my first reaction was frustration rather than concern. You deserve nothing but sympathy, comfort and love. You deserve a comforting touch, a gentle kiss and a reassuring hug. You deserve all of those things from me - your Dad.

There are no excuses for this, I can only offer an explanation. As an Autistic person my mind doesn't work the same way as other people and neither does yours. I may not show you concern, but I promise you I am concerned. The first reaction of your Mum, your Nan, even your siblings, is one of concern and worry, checking that you are ok and offering you comfort. My first reaction is frustration. It might seem to you that this is because I consider the fact that you have hurt yourself to be some sort of inconvenience to me. I am sorry if it seems this way, I truly am. My frustration is out of concern for you. I hate seeing you hurt, I hate seeing you upset. I wish you could slow down a little bit and be a little bit more aware of your surroundings so that you don't hurt yourself quite so often. Your pain and suffering could so easily be avoided and that is what frustrates me. My mind only wants to fix problems, not accept them as a part of life. I am frustrated that I can't stop these things from happening.

I am sorry for all of the times your calls of 'Daaaad' or 'Daddy' or 'Dad, can you come here for a minute' were met with a tone of annoyance.

There are no excuses for this, I can only offer an explanation. As an Autistic person the tasks I undertake, whether that is tidying up, fixing something or even just preparing your lunch, are completed with an intense focus and concentration until that task is complete. When my concentration is broken it can be really hard to re-focus to complete that task, so no matter what or who the distraction is, it is often frustrating and annoying when my concentration is broken. But this isn't your fault - you should be the most important thing to occupy my concentration as nothing else matters more than you.

I am sorry for all of the times your attempts to engage me in conversation about something that was important to you were met with an air of dis-interest. You are the most interesting thing in the world to me and nothing should capture my interest like you do. What is important to you should be important to me.

There are no excuses for this, I can only offer an explanation. I spend so much of my life in my own head - deep in thought, thinking things over, analysing what has happened and replaying the things that are said to me. I need this time to 'download' my thoughts and process all of the information my brain is taking in. Much like my focus on a task, breaking my concentration during 'thinking time' can be frustrating, leaving me with unfinished thoughts and 'downloads'. I am interested in what you have to say, even if I don't appear to be.

I am sorry for all of the times I lost it, shouted at you and made you cry. For this I am wracked with guilt. I don't even know how to apologise to you for this. You were simply doing what children do.

Again, there are no excuses for this, I can only offer an explanation. As you grow up you may begin to realise that you struggle with some of your senses because they are either over or under sensitive and this causes a build up of stress and frustration inside of you. For me, I am hyper sensitive to noise. This means that noise that is too loud, or if there are too many noises at once, can be really stressful for me and that stress starts to bubble away inside me until it becomes too much and erupts out of me in a burst of anger. I am sorry you have had to endure this.

Like me, you may also experience this at other times, like if you have had a long day of taking in lots of information, your brain can't keep up as it needs more time to process that information, so when you get home your brain tries to start processing or 'downloading' that information. This can be really hard when the people around you are trying to give you lots more information to process - like when you and Mummy want to tell me about your day. This can be really stressful too, because it feels like my mind is going to burst and so my stress leaks out. This isn't your fault - it is mine for not finding ways of coping with this.

I am sorry I didn't hug you enough. I am sorry I didn't kiss you enough. I am sorry about when I didn't want to hold your hand.

I am your Dad, so there just cannot be any excuses for this. For what it is worth, I can offer you an explanation. For me, being Autistic means that I am hyper-sensitive to touch. Do you remember when you hated the feel of certain clothes or wanted the labels cutting out because you didn't like the way they felt against your skin? Well that is the same for me too and I often struggle with being touched by people. It sometimes makes me feel weird and irritable and so I can only be touched some of the time. This is not your fault and I can only imagine how it can make you feel unwanted or even unloved when I don't want to hold your hand. I should be able to put your needs above mine.

These are just some of the things I am sorry for but above all I am sorry that your Dad is Autistic and hasn't yet learnt how to be more neuro-typical to give you what you need. I am sorry for all of the times that these things and more may happen again in the future. I will try not to let them happen again. I will try so unbelievably hard not to. But I am not perfect. In fact, I am very far from perfect. You deserve perfection from your Dad, but at least one day with everything you have learnt from the way I did it, you will be that much closer to perfection with your own children.

So, I am writing you this letter to tell you what needs to change.

I am going to try so hard to change, but change doesn't come easy. To change we must first understand what needs to change, then we must work out what we want to become. It is only then we can figure out how to change. I don't have all the answers yet, I may never have them, but I promise you I will try my hardest to find them.

It is clear to me that what needs to change is me.

I need to cast aside my stresses, my annoyances, my negativity. I need to find more acceptance, more happiness, more joy. I need to do this for you. I need to become your Dad.

So, I have written this letter to tell you what I am going to do.

I promise to accept who you are, just the way you are, the same as I am learning to accept myself; the traits, the quirks, the differences, the barriers and the qualities - I promise to accept them all. I will embrace everything that makes you unique, everything that makes you special and everything that highlights how truly amazing you are. I will celebrate the happiness, the fun and the laughter we share. I will capture, celebrate and cherish these things, so that we can always look back on them and so that we never forget them.

When you grow up into the fantastic young adults that you are surely destined to become and you are eventually ready to read this letter, I sincerely hope that it doesn't make any sense to you. If I am to become the Dad that you deserve, then I will have made the changes I need to make, your life will be filled with the positive experiences you need and you will be reading this letter wondering what it is all about.

But, whether or not I achieve it, no matter what happens, no matter what is said or done and no matter where we all end up, please always know how much I love you - even if I haven't done a good job of showing it. You are truly special. You are marvels and I won't let you forget that.

Dad / Daddy

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