Hi everyone! Let me introduce myself. My name is Gav McDermott, I’m 31-years-old and married to my childhood sweetheart, Amy. We have two kids, Alfie our first born who turns 7 this month, and Scarlett who has just turned 4 but has the sass of a prepubescent 12-year-old!!! We also have a hairy child, Prinny, our border terrier puppy.
Becoming a dad at the early age of 24 (to be honest it’s classed as old these days) was something I always wanted to be. I pictured it as every decent father would, teaching them the milestones in life, how to ride a bike, teaching them to swim etc etc…..
We got married on the 8/8/2009 and straight from the venue we jetted off to the island of Kefalonia, where upon returning we found out we were pregnant, and the pair of us were buzzing like a fridge!!!!
It just felt so right, everything was perfect. But obviously nothing and no-one on this planet can prepare you for what you are about to embark upon ……… nothing.
The day Alfie arrived, after a very long traumatic birth, was one of the best days of my life. I couldn’t hold him at first from the sheer shock at what i had just witnessed! No man should have to see that horrific sight of your wife going through that much agony and the images still haunt me to this day.
Scarlett, on the other hand, got delivered faster than your local takeaway would !!!!
Fast forward a few interesting years, life was good. Our little family was complete. We had created two absolutely beautiful, charismatic children and every day was a scream with the little “Alfieisims and “Scarlyisims” that they came out with every day.
Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Snapchat will have seen the very documented goings on of our lives, and every day is a scream!! There’s far to many moments to recite right now, LOL.
For me the biggest challenge of becoming a father definitely lies in the first few months. The sleepless nights, being hit by explosive strange coloured shit, being a giant bib for projectile foul smelling sick , the arguing it causes between the two of you and who’s turn it is for the night feed.
Alfie nearly made a swift exit out of the bedroom window on several occasions (jokes!)!!
Both babies suffered from the dreaded “colic” too but we sharp learnt from our experience with Alfie and applied that with Scarlett (Infacol, Colief, Gripe Water….), and that’s what parenting is all about. It’s an experience that we all learn from and it also teaches us more about ourselves. There is no handbook, no guidelines. Just fathers prerogative.
Since its National Autism Awareness week, I’m going to drop onto the subject of becoming an ASD parent . The highs, the lows and the rest….!!
At two-years-old we started to notice that Alfie still lacked fundamental basics, such as his ability to communicate, he had very little vocabulary and the ability to express his needs. He had meltdowns that we couldn’t understand while out shopping .We spent a lot of time with books, basic games, picture cards as you would with any developing child – with no progress. He was still the happiest little boy you could meet and very loving but something just didn’t seem right. You would often hear the words come out of my mouth “Alfie stop licking the bin” and once, when we were in Toys R Us, he crawled along the floor beside the trolley licking the floor, and then lay flat on the ground and refused to move.
When his childminder at the time brought up the fact he possibly could have Autism – Amy and I went into total denial. OUR Alfie, wasn’t autistic. He couldn’t be. He was all we knew….and we loved him unconditionally. Nothing would ever change that.
But after his 2 year check, the health visitor said we maybe should refer him to the GP for further tests. And finally we started the long haul journey to get the answers we needed. As time went on, it became more and more obvious that my son wasn’t “normal” like the rest.
So we decided that we needed to fight for Alfie. We fought and fought like hell and finally just before his third birthday, we got the answers we very much needed. Alfie was Autistic……..
It hit us both like a tonne of bricks. No-one can understand that feeling of being told your child wasn’t “perfect”. By now he had started nursery, and seeing other kids in comparison, we knew that he would need help fast.
He attended mainstream school where the support he received was phenomenal but it wasn’t enough. We took the matters into out own hands, and to help us understand Alfie’s world, we attended an 8-week course on Autism and quickly realised how wide the autistic spectrum is. We put strategies in place to help cope better day to day, used visual timetables, and countdown times. He had a weighted blanket for sleeping and ear defenders for when we were out in public.
Finally after a year of fighting, we got him a place at a specialist autism school and over the past year the change in Alfie has been outstanding!!! He now uses full sentences and is excelling in maths, and literature, and also his cheeky little shit of a personality shines through and I love that!!!
At one point we thought it was something we would never see or experience but he continues to grow and develop every day. I can’t thank the school enough for what it has done for him. And my amazing wife Amy, for being so incredible and pushing to get him where he needed to be. They have the most incredible bond.
I now have came to realise that instead of thinking Alfie wasn’t “normal” or “perfect” – he is in fact “special”, “unique” and my very own “superhero”. Anyway, what is “normal”?
My advice to new dads (and also dads in my situation) is to have patience. Without patience (which i have very little of) and the ability to switch off sometimes (or most times) it’s enough to drive a man to google “how to get rid of dead bodies” (not that I have ever done this 😉)! But at the end of the day the rewards of being a daddy, outshine the hard times. I think about them all day. I miss them when they are not here. They are my life. They are me inside and out and there’s nothing more important in life than becoming a dad.
If anyone would like to follow my stories of being a dad follow me on Snapchat: gavmcdee or follow me on Facebook.
Huge thanks Gav for letting us into your world with this amazing post. To all of our readers, thank you for your continued support. As it is World Autism Day, please share, engage and get involved in the conversation to raise awareness.