192 – Eliya Stromberg of Jerusalem, Author, Fatherhood Advocate & Father of Three, Including A Son With Down syndrome
Our guest this week is Eliya Stromberg, the founder of Fathers Connect and author of Chosen Fathers. Eliya and his wife Esther have several grandchildren and parent of three grown children, including Ariel (32) who has Down Syndrome.
We’ll hear Eliya’s story about growing up in Los Angeles, taking degrees from UC Berkeley, Yeshiva University (NYC) and University of Kansas and how his career took him all across North America, before landing in Jerusalem.
We also learn about his transformation from being an educator of to the parent of a child with special needs and his calling to assist fathers, which has lead to authoring the book Chosen Fathers and starting the non-profit Fathers Connect.
And more on this episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Chosen Fathers: Life Lessons Learned From Fathers of Children With Disabilities – https://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Fathers-Lessons-Children-Disabilities/dp/9659254105
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at horizontherapeutics.com.
Eliya Stromberg: He was born three weeks early, and he was tiny. The professor held Ariel in one hand, looked intensely in Ariel’s eyes, and with the professor’s long bony index finger began poking Ariel from head to toe while continuing to look intensely in Ariel’s eyes.
After about three or four minutes of silent poking of my son, the professor looked up at me, directly in my eyes and said, “You got a good one.” And these five words, “You got a good one,” were, David, literally the first positive words that any professional had said to me in three months.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Eliya Stromberg, the founder of Fathers Connect and author of Chosen Fathers. Eliya has three grown children, including Ariel, who has Down syndrome. We’ll hear Eliya’s family story and more on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Say hello to David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad Podcast, fathers mentoring fathers of children with special needs, presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads. To find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: Now, let’s listen in on this conversation between Eliya Stromberg and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend Eliya Stromberg of Jerusalem, Israel, a father of three, who is founder of Fathers Connect and author of Chosen Fathers. Eliya, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Eliya Stromberg: You’re welcome. David. Thank you for taking the time to have me.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Esther have been married for 35 years and are the proud grandparents of eight and parents of three, Ellie, 34, Raquel, 31, and middle child, Ariel, 32, who has Dawn syndrome. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Eliya Stromberg: So I grew up in Los Angeles, California, in a typical family. There were three of us, three children in the family. I happened to be in the middle. I have an older sister, a younger brother. My father was a businessman. He had a retail jewelry store in Hollywood, California, which was started by his father.
I grew up in an identified Jewish home, but we were not observant. We were not Sabbath observant families. I grew up in a reformed environment. I went to Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah, went to public school. From public school I went on to university, started at UCLA, and then transferred to Berkeley, from where I graduated.
Life was wonderful post World War II, and it was a very good childhood that I had. I mean, what can I say? I had a very nice childhood.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Well, let’s go back a little bit. I think in a prior conversation you did mention that your dad was in the jewelry business. I think you mentioned he was a watchmaker, and he worked at Farley Jewelers, the oldest retail business in Los Angeles, from what I remember.
Eliya Stromberg: So it was actually my grandfather, his father William, who was the watchmaker. He started a business in 1917 on Hollywood Boulevard, when Hollywood Boulevard was literally two blocks long surrounded by orange groves. And at the time when my father eventually took over the business and when he eventually retired from it, it was the oldest retail business in Hollywood, California.
Both my father and my grandfather were Rotarians in the Hollywood Rotary Club. My father at one point was the president of the club, and so we have long, long history in Los Angeles.
David Hirsch: Thank you for the clarification. So I’m sort of curious to know, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Eliya Stromberg: Excellent question. My relationship with my father, I believe, starts with my father’s relationship with his father. From what my father told me, he didn’t hear from his father the words, “I love you.” I’m not sure if he ever did. Not that they didn’t have a close relationship. They did. They worked together. They were in business together.
The family was close. I never knew of any kind of arguments or disruptions in the family. I was never aware of anything like that. But these were not men who shared their feelings with each other very much. So as a consequence, it wasn’t until I was a young adult in my twenties that I actually ever heard my father say, “I love you.”
We had a good relationship. I went fishing with my father on occasion. He was a deep sea fisherman. And he took me hunting with him once. We went dove hunting in Blythe, California, once. We did things together periodically, and I loved my father. I was very close with him. But he also, like so many fathers, had expectations of how I was supposed to be, and was rather directive about those expectations.
But we had a good relationship. I mean, he was there. He was always present. And there were some events in our lives that brought us close together. I learned things from my father. I learned some very important life lessons from my father.
David Hirsch: So if you had to name one or two of those important takeaways, lessons if you will, from your dad that you’ve tried to incorporate into your own fathering, what would they be?
Eliya Stromberg: Okay. So as I said, my father was a retail jeweler, and at one point I lived in New York. And as an adult, a young adult, he came to visit me in New York. Together we went to 47th Street in Manhattan, which is the center of the diamond district, of the jewelry retail business—well, not just retail, but of the jewelry business in New York.
And we’re walking on the street, and he’s talking to me, and we passed the entrance to a store. And there are two men standing in the entrance to the store, and they’re gesturing back and forth. Actually, we’re on the opposite side of the street, and we’re looking at them across the street.
My father pointed, and he said, “Look at those two men there, talking to each other.” And they’re gesturing back and forth, and my father said, “They could be in the middle of a deal.” And lo and behold, right after that, the two men shook hands.
And my father said to me, “Those two men have probably just sealed a deal with that handshake. And on the basis of that handshake, there could be possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of business being traded, and it’s all going on their word. And if either of them goes against their word and breaks that handshake, no one on this street will ever do business with that man again.”
So I learned from that. My father was telling me, “Your word is the most important bond that you can make with someone.” And I’ve always lived that way. I’ve always said to my children, “If I say something to you, you can count on that, because I’m going to stand behind it.” That was one of the most important lessons I ever learned from my father.
David Hirsch: Okay, well thanks for sharing. So from an educational perspective, my recollection was that you graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a BS in US American History and English, and then you went to Yeshiva University, where you got a Master’s of Science in special ed and teaching. And then you also did your PhD at the University of Kansas in Education and Leadership. And that was all over about a ten-year period of time.
Eliya Stromberg: I was fortunate I was able to find a position in a private special education high school in Manhattan. Students in the school had to test under 75 IQ for the parents to receive tuition. And so these kids all had a whole range of problems.
But that’s where I was introduced to special education, and I taught there for three years. And toward the end of the three years, I went to Yeshiva University in New York City to get a master’s degree in special education.
David Hirsch: Once you were married, from what I understand, you had planned to travel to Israel for a short period of time. How did that journey transpire?
Eliya Stromberg: Right. So Esther and I decided right after we were married that we wanted to spend the first year of our marriage together in Israel. And so we did. Neither of us had work commitments at that point. And we came to Israel and we wanted to learn. We wanted to grow in understanding our religion and to build our practice of traditional Orthodox Judaism.
I entered into a Yeshiva where I learned full-time traditional Jewish text, and Esther entered into a seminary where she learned full-time. And we would come home for lunch and share with each other what we learned. And we had a wonderful first year together. We went there in September, and we were scheduled to return to the United States for a wedding of a niece of mine, which was in the springtime.
So we did, but by that time, Esther was expecting our first child, and by the time we got to America, she was far enough along in the pregnancy that all airlines wouldn’t allow her to fly. They did not want a pregnant lady about to give birth on a 14-hour flight from New York to Tel Aviv. So we had to stay in America.
This was in August, and fortunately I found a position as the principal of a Jewish day school in Philadelphia. So as we moved to Philadelphia, and we were there for two years. My wife gave birth to our firstborn in Philadelphia. That’s that part of the story.
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears and talk about special needs, first on a personal level and then beyond. And I’m wondering, before Ariel’s diagnosis, did you or Esther have any exposure to the special needs?
Eliya Stromberg: Well, I did, because I taught special education. But together as a couple, on a personal basis, I did not know anybody with a child with special needs, nor I don’t believe Esther did either.
So our firstborn was born a typical child. We were both flying. I mean, what could be more wonderful then a firstborn? And it was a boy, and he was typical, and he was handsome, and he was off the charts as far as his development. So that’s what we were looking forward to with whoever else might come along, be it son or daughter.
David Hirsch: What was Ariel’s diagnosis, and how did that come about?
Eliya Stromberg: So during the pregnancy through a scheduled ultrasound, a doctor said the femur of the fetus was small. He said, “Sometimes that is found in children who have Down syndrome.’ The only way to know for sure at that point was to do the amniocentesis examination.
But for a number of reasons, the primary reason being there was no point in us doing that examination, because our belief was such that we would not have aborted the child. The only circumstances under which we would abort would be if for some reason the fetus or the birth was life-threatening to my wife. But there was nothing to indicate that, so there was no basis for an abortion, so there was no reason to do the amniocentesis.
So we lived for several months with the possibility of this thing in the back of our minds, that maybe there might be something with his child. The birth was normal. Everything was fine until Ariel came out, and the doctors looked at his facial features and the rest of him and gave us a diagnosis.
The first three months after Ariel’s birth were extremely difficult for me. With all my background, education and experience in special education, when the child was mine, none of that experience or education helped me to accept what I had been given. He wasn’t what I expected, and he wasn’t what I wanted. And for three months I was in a state of denial and depression.
I had no idea what to expect, and I didn’t think I could be the kind of father that I was to my firstborn. I was not in a good place. And as a consequence of not being in a good place about myself, I was not able to be of support to my wife. And so for three months, she says I checked out.
That’s the term that describes me. I did. I mean, I didn’t run away, but I did emotionally. If she handed the baby to me, I took him. If I had to change a diaper, I would. Impatiently, I would pat his back to try to get a burp. But I didn’t try to bond with him. And that went on for three months.
Finally, a friend said to me, “Stop already, with all this negativity.” I mean, I had been building all these negative pictures of what the future was going to be like, how it was going to impact my family, it was going to affect my firstborn, it was going to be a financial burden, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So he said to me, “Stop with all the negativity. Why don’t you find out? Get a real evaluation from somebody who really is both compassionate and understands Down syndrome.” So he recommended that I go to Professor Reuven Feuerstein of Blessed Memory, who at the time was a world renowned educator of individuals who were developmentally delayed. And he was the founder and director of the Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem, and the grandfather of a little boy with Down syndrome.
So I took Ariel, my son, to meet Professor Feuerstein. I walked into the professor’s office, cradling Ariel in my arms. I extended my hand to the professor to shake his. The professor ignored my hand and just grabbed Ariel out of my arms and began to intensely look into his eyes. He held Ariel in one hand. I mean, Ariel was a scrawny, puny kid, and he was born three weeks early. And he was tiny.
The professor held Ariel in one hand, looked intensely in Ariel’s eyes, and the professor’s long bony index finger began poking Ariel from head to toe, while continuing to look intensely in Ariel’s eyes. After about three or four minutes of silent poking of my son, the professor looked up at me, directly in my eyes, and said, “You got a good one!”
And these five words, “You got a good one,” were, David, literally the first positive words that any professional had said to me in three months. I had all kinds of diagnoses and prognoses and analyses and statistics, and all kinds of things about kids with Down syndrome. But nobody ever once said to me anything like, “You got a good one,” or even, “Congratulations, you’re the parent of a son!”
So when the professor said to me, “You got a good one,” it jolted me. And my thought was, “Wow, if I got a good one, maybe good things will come from him.” Like I said, I got jolted by what the professor said, but he didn’t stop there. He said to me, “You know, I am the grandfather of a child with Down syndrome,” and he says, “Do you know how he came to me?”
I shrugged my shoulders. I mean, what is he going to tell me now? What do you mean, how he came to you? So he said to me, “His soul was flying around in the heavens, and as it was flying, it was saying, ‘Where am I going? Where am I going to land?’ And it looked down, and that soul saw me, and he said, ‘Ah, Feuerstein. That’s where I’m going!’”
And what I heard the professor say to me was that I was chosen, that it’s not an accident that this little soul of Ariel with his Down syndrome body came to me. So what the professor did for me in that those few moments was he gave me a reframe. He gave me a way to look at my child in a different way. And if I was chosen to be Ariel’s father, then to me that meant I must be exactly the right person for Ariel.
So all the doubts I had about myself and all the uncertainty as to what to do with Ariel, suddenly it was like, well, even if I don’t know what to do, I still must be the right person for Ariel, because I am his father. Nobody else is his father. So I must be the right person for him. And if I’m the right person for him, then he’s exactly the right child for me.
And I certainly understood that Ariel needed me, but I didn’t ever think I needed Ariel. What I learned there from the professor with the reframe was that Ariel was good. He was born good. I mean, he was perfect as Ariel, and that he was going to be and become exactly what Ariel was supposed to be and become, and it might not be what I expected. But he was going to be the perfect Ariel because he started out as the perfect Ariel. He started out as a “good one.”
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. It sounds like a profound experience, transformative, from what you just said, and it allowed you to look at the circumstances in a new light. So thank you again for sharing.
I’m sort of curious to know what impact Ariel’s situation has had on his siblings.
Eliya Stromberg: Okay. Ariel, being that he was in the middle, it had an interesting impact. Number one son, Ellie, he always wanted to have a younger brother that he could play with. But Ariel just wasn’t physically up to what Ellie could do.
So Ellie didn’t pay too much attention to Ariel. Although now they do. I mean, Ellie is a mature man, and he’s grown up, and he accepts his brother, and actually very close. They WhatsApp together. Ellie doesn’t live here in Israel, so Ariel doesn’t see him very often, but Ariel has been to South Africa to visit, et cetera.
Anyway, with Raquel, Ariel used to sit on Raquel a lot. He was two years older, and for a while he was physically more developed than Raquel. And for many years, Raquel was always kind of at odds with Ariel. He was a nuisance, a big nuisance to her.
And fortunately for Raquel, our next door neighbors had a son with Down syndrome—literally, our next door neighbors. We could have broken through a wall, and we would have walked from one apartment to another. And they had a boy with Down syndrome, I guess he’s about three or four years younger than Ariel, and they had a daughter who was exactly the same age as my daughter, who became best friends.
And because they each had a sibling with Down syndrome, they were able to work with each other. They were able to give support to each other. They created like a little world of specialness because we each have brothers with Down syndrome.
David Hirsch: So they could relate to each other. That’s what you’re saying.
Eliya Stromberg: Right. They gave support to each other, and because they had that support, Raquel was able to accept Ariel. Raquel also went to a preschool program here in our neighborhood that was an integrated preschool. Ariel went to it before Raquel did, and integrated with typical children and children with special needs.
And so she went to that. So she grew up in an environment where not only her brother had special needs, but other people did as well. So she had exposure to more, where it was more accepted in general. But she had to deal with a brother who was a nuisance. So as I say it was primarily with the support of her next door neighbor friend, Shoshana, that she was eventually able to accept Ariel.
Although I’ll have to say to this day, there’s still some friction between Raquel and Ariel. She’s not so patient with all of his—in Yiddish, we would say all his mishegoss, all his craziness. Not literally crazy, but all his stuff that he does that is unique to him.
But everybody is supportive. Raquel now is the legal guardian of Ariel, along with us, in the event that for some reason we can’t continue to take care of Ariel. So Raquel is very accepting of him now.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thanks for sharing. Were there any supporting organizations there in Jerusalem that Ariel benefited from, or your family benefited from, as he was growing up?
Eliya Stromberg: So the preschool in our neighborhood, Gan Harmony, is the flagship preschool program in Israel for inclusion. And in that environment, he was totally accepted. The staff there understood us and didn’t have expectations of us being anything other than just his parents. Unlike many of the local professionals, who gave us all kinds of programs we were supposed to do with Ariel, Gan Harmony understood that it was their job to educate Ariel, and that it was our job to love and protect him. So that was very, very helpful to us.
He had one very, very difficult year, which was then followed by an opportunity that my wife had to start a school, along with three other mothers who had kids with special needs and a very progressive and forward thinking—well, I guess that’s what progressive means—educator, very innovative educator, who wanted to start a school for religious boys who have special needs.
So when Ariel was eight years old, he entered the school located outside of Jerusalem and began in this environment of total acceptance. And it was just an amazing school. Ariel’s been in that school now for 24 years. From the time he was eight years old until the present, he’s been in that environment. It’s probably where Ariel will continue to live the rest of his life, because it has become a community, not just a school.
David Hirsch: And just to be clear, what’s the name of the school that he is currently at?
Eliya Stromberg: So in Hebrew it’s called [?]. Loosely translated, it means the program for inclusion in the community called Givat [?].
David Hirsch: Okay. So I’d like to talk about two more things beyond what I would call your special needs experience, beyond just being a father to a child with Down syndrome. And the first is the organization that you started, going back to 2013, which is called Father’s Connect. And I’m wondering, what was your vision for that organization, and how have things transpired?
Eliya Stromberg: The vision of Fathers Connect was to do as its name suggests: to connect fathers. My idea was to work within the Jewish world, no distinction within the Jewish world, but just a father who was raising a child with special needs. I live in Israel, so I started here in Israel, and the vision was to have a location where young fathers and even more experienced fathers could meet, ask questions, get information, and give support to each other.
It wasn’t unique insofar as how fathers groups are conceived. It’s just that there was nothing like that for the English speaking world here in Israel. So at the time when I was encouraged to write the book, Chosen Fathers: Life Lessons Learned From Fathers of Children with Disabilities, I was also encouraged to start a group.
So I did. And what was interesting about the group was my discovery that we fathers—as well you know, David, from your vast experience working with fathers—is that we’re characterized as men by not wanting to share things about ourselves with other people. Ee don’t talk much about ourselves. We’re doers, not talkers about ourselves.
So how do you pull fathers together? I thought, I’m primarily talking to fathers in Jerusalem. A significant portion of Jerusalem is religious, Sabbath observant. So I got a rabbi to come and talk. I offered an evening where a very prominent rabbi, well known in the English speaking world, would come and speak about legal issues, Jewish legal issues regarding raising a child with special needs.
And I advertised in a couple of the vocal throwaway papers, and etc. Forty fathers showed up. I was overwhelmed. And when I told people that 40 fathers showed up, they said, “How did you do that?” And what I realized is it happened because the topic was something fathers wanted to hear about.
We ran a second Fathers Connect program in which we talked about secular legal issues and financial issues and how to deal with the bureaucracy. And I had three experts in each of these areas come, and an additional 17 fathers whom I didn’t meet the first time showed up.
So it says to me that to talk to fathers, find out what they need, what they want to know, and talk to them about that and make that connection with them. I was very much encouraged by all of this response to follow through on what to me was a no-brainer, and that was to start a mentor program, experienced fathers working with new fathers.
I know you have had experience with that, David. You have a program running, and many other groups have that also. Somehow it didn’t work here. We never got it going, and so we became a very sort of disconnected group of fathers. I’ve maintained contact with people on an individual basis, but we’re looking to build up Fathers Connect once again.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thanks for sharing. Working with dads is pretty challenging—working with men, I should say—for the reasons that you’ve stated. You know, we’re not the gender that pulls over and asks for directions, and we’re likely to try to figure it out on our own.
And I think it’s one thing when you’re trying to get from point A to point B, but it’s another thing when you’re applying that problem solving approach to something more consequential, like raising a child, or like we’ve been discussing, raising a child with special needs. You know, you’re not likely to get the results that you’re desirous of, or that your child deserves for that matter. So I applaud your efforts.
And I did want to drill down a little bit on your book Chosen Fathers. And I’m sort of curious to know, because you’ve done a brilliant job of profiling a number of different dads, how did you go about selecting the dads that you included in the book?
Eliya Stromberg: I wanted to interview people directly, and at that point we were pre-pandemic, so I could meet face-to-face with people. That meant I had to do it with fathers here in Israel.
And so I began asking around. I had some contacts. I knew some people. My next door neighbor, for instance, had a son with Down syndrome, as I mentioned. And I began asking around for fathers of kids with special needs. But I had to make a definition as to what “special needs” meant.
And I decided that special needs was defined quite broadly. So any father who felt that his child was not typical in any way, that he had to somehow find unique ways to connect with his child, to provide for his child, to educate his child—that father was a potential interviewee. So as a result, the book is a collection of some very diverse kinds of special needs.
David Hirsch: Got it. Yeah. Well, I love what you did, and I like the fact that it is diverse, and so it’s not just speaking to the Downs community or the autism community or the cerebral palsy community or the rare disease community, but you’ve covered a lot of ground.
So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering, in addition to some of the thoughts you’ve already shared, is there any advice that you would like to share with a father who might be listening there in Jerusalem, here in the States, about raising a child with special needs?
Eliya Stromberg: I’ve discovered in my 32 years of raising Ariel that there are five areas that I know every parent, mother and father, have to deal with. And the sooner they learn how to deal with those things, it’s not only the more successful they’ll be, but the more joy they will have in being a parent to their child.
And the five areas are, first of all, parents must accept who their child is, the situation that they’re in, and accept themselves and however they are responding to it. Acceptance is number one.
Number two is recognizing that they’re not in it alone. Parents, you’re not doing this all by yourself. You actually have five teams of people working with you, five different teams of people working with you to raise your child, and the challenge becomes how to harness all five of these teams to provide the most for your child and provide the most relief to you, the parents.
The third area is that parents must take care of themselves. I tell parents that you come first. You come before your child. You must be taking care of yourself. You have special needs as well as your child has special needs, and you must be taking care of those special needs. Because if you’re not taking care of them, then you can’t give the most and the best to your child, to the typical children you have, to your spouse. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not doing the best for others, either.
The fourth area is those typical children, the other children in the family. They must feel loved, and they must feel special also. And you have to learn how to give them exactly what they need, so that not only do they feel good about themselves, but they accept and feel good about their typical sibling.
And then the final area that we have all got to learn to be, is we’ve got to learn to be advocates for our child. Nobody else cares more about your child with special needs than you do, and nobody else will give them more than you do. And nobody knows more about your child than you do. You live 24/7 with your child. No matter what the professionals may tell you, they don’t know your child like you do. So there are advocacy skills to learn.
So five areas. I tell parents, you have to learn how to do them. And I’ll just say I’m working on how best to help parents to learn in those five area.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you for sharing. If I can paraphrase what you’ve said, acceptance, you’re not alone, that you’ve got to take care of yourself so you can bring your A game, not just for your child with special needs, but for your typical children, right? You don’t want to overlook their needs as well. And then the last is that you need to be your child’s best advocate. And that’s a learned experience, as opposed to just something that is innate.
And I remember you saying, I think of it as sort of your mantra, which is, “This is your life. Accept it, get busy and make it good.”
Eliya Stromberg: That’s it. That mantra I developed not long after my experience with Professor Feuerstein. And I’ve had to repeat that to myself many, many times in these 32 years, because the challenges don’t ever stop, as every parent raising their child with special needs knows.
There are different challenges. They’re sometimes bigger challenges, and they’re not just like how to take care of the child, but it’s like how to take care of myself when something comes up that I’m not prepared to do, that I don’t know how to do, or that I thought was taken care of, and I find out it’s not.
So, that’s it. This is your life. Dynamically accept it. Don’t just passively accept it and say, “Oh yeah, that’s what it is. What can I do about it?” But dynamically accept that, and say, “I’m going to make it the best it can be right now.”
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m sort of curious to know, why is it you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Eliya Stromberg: Well, I never realized it, David, but I would not be the man I am were it not for Ariel, for all my children, and for my wife. I mean, if I hadn’t had my life experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am, and I wouldn’t be sitting here with you talking. So I’ve come to appreciate that my life experiences are a gift, because I’ve chosen to make the best of them.
I haven’t always known how to, and sometimes haven’t wanted to, because they were difficult. But when I’ve realized that there are no mistakes. I used to make a lot of mistakes, until I learned how to call them learning opportunities. And so I’ve had lots of learning opportunities. And I want to share it. I want to share those learning opportunities.
I want to help other fathers discover that they too have learning opportunities instead of making mistakes, and that they’re totally capable of dealing with any situation they’re given, because, well, they might not want to hear it, but I believe they were chosen. I believe they’re exactly the right father for their child, and their child’s exactly the right child for them.
There’s so much joy to be experienced, but it comes in a very funny, funny, wrapped up package. It doesn’t look like any other gift I ever received, but as I’ve unwrapped the package, I’ve discovered that there are marvelous and wondrous and unexpected joys to be had.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, we’re thrilled to have you. Thank you for being involved. Let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend Louis Mendoza of the Washington State Father’s Network for connecting us.
Eliya Stromberg: Right. Thank you, Louis. If somebody wants to learn more about Fathers Connect or contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Eliya Stromberg: So there is a Fathers Connect website that one can go to. It’s fathersconnect.com. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will respond.
David Hirsch: We’ll be sure to include both those in the show notes. That’ll make as easy as possible for people to follow up. Eliya, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Eliya is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support.
Eliya, thanks again.
Eliya Stromberg: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more about the Special Fathers Network, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad. Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story, or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@21stcenturydads.org.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch. Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics, who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.