In this Dad to Dad podcast we hear from special father, Rick Daynes. Rick doesn’t have a child with special needs, he has three children with special needs. And he’s written a book to help other special needs dads and parents with their journey. It’s called “Keep It Together Man: For Dads with a Special Kid.” We’ll hear all about it in this Dad to Dad Podcast.
Dad to Dad 45 – Author Rick Daynes, father of 5 including 3 kids with special needs
Rick Daynes: He saw that and he ran over there and he got this trophy and I’m telling you all of the garbage that we’ve gone through. All of the things that we’ve tried to get him involved in all the times that we took them out of the house to take a walk or go to the beach in hopes that something will click all of that became validated because he stood there on the podium with his trophy.
And I looked at my wife and she’s just. Balling tears are flowing. It was maybe the happiest moment that we’d had in years.
Tom Couch: That’s special father Rick Daynes. Rick doesn’t have a child with special needs. He has three children with special needs, and he’s written a book to help other parents and dads of special needs kids with their journey.
We’ll hear all about it in this dad to dad podcast. Here’s David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad and ed podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers, and 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. For dads to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help, or we’d 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: So let’s listen now to David Hirsch’s conversation with special father Rick Daynes.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Rick Daynes of San Diego, a father of five and sales rep. Rick, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Rick Daynes: Thank you for having me, David.
David Hirsch: You and your wife. Robyn had been married for 21 years and are proud parents of five children.
Jefferson 17, Tyler 15, Jeremiah 13, summer eight and Eli five. Most remarkably, three of your five children have special needs. Tyler has autism. Jeremiah has Asperger’s syndrome and Eli has down syndrome and autism. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Rick Daynes: So, um, I grew up here in San Diego where I currently, uh, probably about 30 minutes away from where I reside now and, uh, had a wonderful upbringing. Great dad, great parents, big family. Uh, I grew up, I had six brothers and one sister.
David Hirsch: Wow. That is a big family. Where are you in the pecking order?
Rick Daynes: Um, number three.
David Hirsch: Okay, so you’re sort of a middle child.
Rick Daynes: Yeah.
David Hirsch: And a, is everybody in the Southern California area or are you guys scattered around?
Rick Daynes: We’re spread out all over the place. I’ve got a brother overseas. I’ve got two siblings here. Just spread out mostly over the West.
David Hirsch: Anything unique about growing up with seven siblings?
Rick Daynes: Uh, you know, never a dull moment. I would say the door was always open. You know, we’re all very active and uh, all very social. So our door was, you know, And, and, and I, and I say that literally, I mean, literally the door was always open, not unlocked, but just always open. There were kids running in and out and, you know, our, our house was kind of the place to go after school and football and the, in the front lawn.
And, uh, you know, it’s a lot of play, a lot of fun. So,
David Hirsch: uh, out of curiosity, from top to bottom, what’s the age range,
Rick Daynes: probably let me think. I think 16 years between the top and the bottom. Wow. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So if it’s 16 years, there’s eight of you about one every two years.
Rick Daynes: Yeah. There you go.
David Hirsch: No, no twins, no triplets,
Rick Daynes: no twins, no triplets.
One mom, one dad. Got it.
David Hirsch: So speaking about your dad, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Rick Daynes: Well, I have a great relationship with my dad and I always have had a great relationship with my dad. He’s a. No, we were all involved in sports. All of us, my sister included. And you know, he’s got this unbelievable number one day, he sat down and figured out how many ball games he’s been to in his life.
And it’s, it’s, it’s astronomical. We’ve always had a good relationship. You know, he’s an optimist maybe to a fault he wants to encourage and uplift and. And give his kids everything you can. And that’s the way it’s always been. Even to this day, you know, call me regularly, ask me if I’m what I’m doing. Show real interest in my life.
Even as an adult, he’s always been that way.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. What type of work did your dad do?
Rick Daynes: Jewelry business. So when I was a kid, he had jewelry stores and then at one point he sold his jewelry stores and just a belt wholesale. So I grew up in the jewelry business.
David Hirsch: Any aspirations of following in his footsteps?
Rick Daynes: No, I’m not really. I mean, that was kind of his thing. Not really my thing. We’ve all, you know, all the kids worked for him that at one point, but I’m not really my thing. So was
David Hirsch: there any important advice that your dad gave you or lesson or lessons that you learned from your dad that, uh, you know, resonate with you?
Rick Daynes: You know, I don’t even know where to start with that. My dad was a big goal guy. No. He sat us down every year and measured us, took our height, our weight, and we made goals. And it was clear early on that I can remember actually, when he taught me about goals and he taught me about planning and he said, you know, if you plan things out more often than not, they’re going to come true.
And actually I can remember one time when I had a birthday coming up. I don’t remember exactly how old I was. But I was young and I remember thinking my parents have given me a lot of leeway here and basically told me that whatever I plan out for my birthday is going to happen. And so I plan my birthday and it happened pretty much exactly the way I planned it.
It was then that I realized that, you know, when you plan things and you set some goals, the way you want things done, or the way you want it, some growth or, you know, a goal that you want to achieve, something that you want to do. You write it down and you make plans for it. And more often than not, I mean, you can accomplish it if you want it.
So I think, you know, among the thousands of things, my dad taught me. I think that was one that I can remember early on, resonated with me and stuck with me my entire life. That’s
David Hirsch: fabulous. So setting goals, being planning, plan of procedure, no sort of envisioning what’s going to happen. Put it in writing.
And then once it’s in writing, There’s a higher probability that things will actually transpire.
Rick Daynes: Right.
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears. My recollection was that you went to school in Hawaii and took a history to degree. Yeah. So I’m sort of curious to know, why’d you pick a school in Hawaii and why history anyway?
Rick Daynes: So I went to BYU, Hawaii, which is a small school on the North shore. It was actually smaller than my high school Oman. And I just remember thinking, you know, I want to have a good college experience. And I’m already in business, like just working for my dad’s company all the time. I felt like I had a good business background.
I’d probably be in business, but I wanted to do something that I would enjoy and that I felt like I would get a lot out of both immediately and in the longterm. And so I majored in history, which has been great for me. And I, my profession sometimes, uh, has to deal with what I learned in college and sometimes it doesn’t, but I had a great education, uh, on the North shore of Hawaii and have a wahoo I should say.
And, uh, absolutely no regrets. In fact, I, I think it’s the greatest school in the world, so well,
David Hirsch: so I’m sort of curious, how did you and Robin meet? So
Rick Daynes: I was. Going to school in Hawaii. And I had a brother who worked at pier 39 in San Francisco. It’s funny. Cause my roommates, I never wanted to leave Hawaii. I just love it.
I mean, that’s my kind of place, but I have a big family and they’re all in the mainland. And my brother called me up and he said, you know, Rick, you haven’t come home for Christmas. You haven’t come home for this or that. Why don’t you come work this summer with me in San Francisco? So I said, all right. So I went and lived with my brother.
And worked for the summer in San Francisco. And it was there that I met my wife and we dated, I took the same job the next summer. And we emailed and corresponded, uh, got engaged in, uh, I graduated, she had one year left of school, so I moved to where her school was and the rest is history.
David Hirsch: That’s wild. So from a work standpoint, you mentioned that, um, after high school you worked for your dad.
Yeah. And then after college, you mentioned that you moved to the town, that Robin was at school at. Where did your career take you then?
Rick Daynes: So the moment I graduated from high school, I got a job with Mel Fisher, who is the treasure Hunter in the keys. World’s greatest treasure Hunter, but we call him. And so I joined the golden crew.
And became a treasure Hunter in the, in the keys.
David Hirsch: So you were literally somebody who was going scuba diving, looking for treasures underwater.
Rick Daynes: That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, was a ball and they still do it today. I mean, if you there’s still boats out, I still get updates. It’s a, it’s so much fun, you know, can’t imagine a better start to our marriage and to our family than being out there in the keys and scuba diving a lot.
And. Finding treasure and being involved with that organization was phenomenal. So you
David Hirsch: got paid to go scuba diving. That’s what it sounds like, which is pretty impressive. And I’m sort of curious, were you paid on an hourly basis or are you paid on like a finder’s fee based on the amount of treasure that you’ve found?
Rick Daynes: So I was on salary, but at the end of the year, we would have a, what they call division and we had a huge party. All the investors would come we’d have this big party. And then depending on what. Contract, you had, you got a portion of the treasure we found that year. So that was always a big deal. You could, you know, if you went and you found an Emerald or a piece of aide or a doubloon or, you know, something valuable or something that you just thought was really cool, you know, you put your name on it.
You know, Rick found this, Rick found that. And then at the end of the year, depending on how much I was awarded for. It was all point system, basically. So how many points I got determined? You know what treasures I could keep with me. That sounds wild. Yeah, that was a lot of fun.
David Hirsch: So when I come and visit you in San Diego, are you going to show me your treasure?
Rick Daynes: Yeah, sure. I’ve got some pieces.
David Hirsch: Okay.
Rick Daynes: You know, I’ve got my favorites that I’ve kept with me forever and there’ll be, there’ll be with me forever. So.
David Hirsch: That’s awesome. So from there, you said he worked on the keys for a few years. Yeah. Uh, where did your career take you?
Rick Daynes: So we started having kids in the keys and the keys is a wonderful place, but I mean, to be quite honest with you, one day my wife came to me and she said, I think it’s time to move.
And I said, what do you mean? And she said, do you know any teenagers that you want your son hanging out with? There were great teenagers, but I saw her point. It wasn’t the greatest place to raise a family. So I said, all right, where do you want to go? She’s from the Bay area, I’m from San Diego. She said, I want to go to San Diego, which was great for me because that’s my home.
So we moved to San Diego and continued. Um, I got into a different line of work. This is where we’ve raised our family. This is where we’ve been ever since. That’s
David Hirsch: fabulous. So let’s switch gears and talk about the. Special needs community first on a personal level with you and your children, and then beyond so three of your five kids have special needs.
And I think the way that might be easiest to talk about this is that, uh, number two, Tyler who’s now 15 was diagnosed with autism. Did you or Robin have any connections to the special needs community before Tyler’s diagnosis
Rick Daynes: now? None at all. So when Tyler was young, he had all kinds of behaviors, all kinds of sensory issues, all kinds of, uh, I would say, I mean, he was all over the place.
He was, uh, a bull in a China shop. We could not, you know, meltdowns were frequent. We couldn’t take him into places. I mean, if I took him into a store, he would, you know, pull things off of the shelf. He would tip things over. It was just really. It was a difficult time. There was a lot of pride for me because I was not going to have a special needs kid.
You know, that, that just wasn’t in the plans. You know, my, my family history, you know, we’ve got good genes. There’s no problems anywhere. My wife, same thing where, you know, she’s an athlete, we’re athletes healthy, we’re strong. There’s no saveable way that I’m going to have a kid with autism. So
David Hirsch: how old was Tyler when he was diagnosed?
Rick Daynes: You know, it was clear when he was four, there was something wrong with them. And he had multiple diagnosis. My wife had taken him to, I mean, they ran the gauntlet of doctors, every doctor given him a new diagnosis, but autism was always one of the diagnosis that was thrown out there. So he didn’t get into special education until he was five.
And I would say it’s probably. It’s 100% my fault because I wasn’t on board. You know, I wasn’t a, I was in denial. I just thought every time you had a bad behavior, I just said, look, honey, I would have done the same thing. He’s a kid. This is what kids do. He’ll grow out of it. He’ll grow out of it. And, you know, by the time he was four and five, it was apparent that there was something really wrong and that I needed to, um, get with the program.
And swallow my pride and, you know, embrace a life in special education, which it took a while, but I did it, you know, my wife was on board from the, from the get go. He probably should have been in special needs before, but, uh, I had, I just had a hard time thinking that there was anything wrong with my boy.
David Hirsch: You can only look backwards and say that though, at the time you were just trying to be optimistic, maybe. Right, because you’ve mentioned your dad’s optimistic, you’re optimistic.
Rick Daynes: Yeah.
David Hirsch: And whether it’s denial or disbelief, you’re just hoping and praying that he will grow out of it. So, you know, I don’t, I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself, but it is interesting that you could look back and say maybe coulda, woulda shut up.
So I’m wondering what type of advice did you get early on? Looking back on? It was really helpful for you and Robin.
Rick Daynes: Well, again, I’m sad to say. I didn’t really early on with Tyler advice was, you know, we didn’t put it out there. We didn’t, we didn’t go to the autism functions. We didn’t associate with people in the autism world.
We didn’t, we didn’t get ourselves involved. I think maybe there was a little bit of I’m ashamed, four. He was just so difficult that we couldn’t take him around. We became, we would isolate ourselves in inside, you know, Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, what are we going to do? Let’s go do something. Ah, you know, do we really have the energy?
We really want to put ourselves in the situation where we’re in a public place. We’ve got this kid who’s gonna, you know, cause a scene and. I’m so far beyond that now, but I’m sad to say that that’s kind of the way it was the advice that I got came from books and it came from educators and it came from therapists who came into our home to work with our child.
My wife would pour through books and she would highlight things that she’d want me to read. We do studies and we document. They had us documenting his behavior, our behavior, how do we handle this situation? Antecedents, you know what, what happened before this meltdown? We want you to write about it. And so most of the advice that I got came out of books and it came out of therapists who were coming into our home, working with our kid, then that’s totally my fault because there are so many great organizations out there that I could have gone to.
And just said, look, you know, is there anyone I can talk to about. You know, life and special needs. How do I deal with my kid in this situation? How do I do with my kid in that situation? How do I deal with my wife and my other children? You know, there’s one kid in our house and he’s throwing our entire household for a loop.
And quite frankly, you know, I don’t, I don’t know about this. In fact, I would say that every night I got home, there’s a pile of three to eight books on my wife’s bedside table. And they’ve got markers and notes and all kinds of stuff. And one day I just said, mom, I said, look, Robin, I can’t, I can’t read all of this.
I can’t, no, I’m tired. I’m hungry. I just want to go to sleep. I mean, it’s like, I’m going to interact with my kids. I’m going to do what I can, but I can’t, I can’t read all this stuff. And I said, where’s, dad’s guide. Where’s the dad’s guide. And I looked it up. I went on, Amazon, went to my library and. For predominantly, most of the books she was reading, maybe even all of the books were written by women.
And, um, a lot of women tell their stories about, you know, dealing with their child in special needs. And I was just like, look, I need dad’s guide. I need to know where I need to spend my time. What’s the most important thing and it didn’t exist. And so I would just keep notes, you know? Writing really became my therapy.
So when my wife and I had issues, when I had issues with my kid, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. And I’m a guy too. Right. So guys don’t talk. I mean, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t, for the most part, we don’t, you know, seek out our friends and say, Hey, can we go to lunch? Cause I’ve got to get some stuff off my chest.
So for me it became, you know, writing really it’s sit down on my computer or just get a pen and a piece of paper. I’d write out my feelings or I’d write out what I’d learned. Write, write out a situation. Hey, we did this study. This is what worked for us. This is what didn’t work for us. You know, going down the road, don’t worry about, you know, this subject.
Don’t spend a lot of time with that, but do spend a lot of time on this. And that actually was the, you know, the start really the, the birth of my book was to be the dads. Dad’s guide to having a family, a kid with special needs. Got it.
David Hirsch: So before we go onto that, I’m curious to know what were some of the bigger challenges you mentioned that, um, Tyler through your whole household for a loop and Robin was immersed in trying to educate herself and sort of a leader like most women are.
You know, in a family, whether you have typical kids or otherwise, uh, with educational issues, with healthcare issues, doctor’s appointments, et cetera. So what were specifically some of the challenges that you and Robin were confronting as Tyler was a young guy? Well,
Rick Daynes: it all boils down to time and money, right?
I mean, so we struggled with time. I was, so when I moved back to San Diego, I bought a franchise with a friend. So he and I were business partners and it required a lot of time and Tyler would go to school and you would get, we would, you know, we’d get a call. Tyler hit the teacher, Tyler tipped over a bookshelf.
Tyler’s out of control. Would you please come get him, please come get them. And then, so that call would go to my wife. Then my wife had called me, she’s sobbing, she’s crying. You know, what are we going to do with this kid? You know? So. No, can you please come home? Can you please come home? So I’d come home, try to handle the situation or he’d have to go to therapy or we’d had, you know, by this time.
So we’d had our third child, so we’ve got two other kids at home, not just Tyler. So I’d come home, take care of the other two. Or my wife was running Tyler to therapy. So time was a huge problem. In fact, I ended up selling out to my business partner and becoming a sales rep. Because I just needed more time.
And if I had to be in the office every morning at seven and I wouldn’t get home to seven, then I was going to have a broken family. There’s no way our family was going to stay together. If I stay on a schedule where I’m never around, so I needed to be home and I needed to change the way I was living.
And I did that. And money, of course, you know, it’s difficult having a special needs kid is. You know, there’s a lot of great programs that are free, but there’s a lot that are very expensive and we did all kinds of testing. We did everything we could possibly do, even if you’re just paying your copay. Even if you have great insurance, you know, things cost money.
You want certain devices you think are gonna make his life better when it comes to money and your children, you’re going to buy whatever it is that you think is going to make them have a more complete, more successful life. And it’ll drain you financially. So time and money, um, were definitely big issues and, you know, still are always,
David Hirsch: um, so thank you for emphasizing that and the fact that you switched gears, career-wise from being a business owner, franchise owner, to being a sales rep.
And what I interpreted is that you made your own hours, right? So that you could be there for your family. On a day to day basis versus, you know, going to a job and, you know, not punching a clock, but putting an eight, 10, 12 hours a day, you know, five, six days a week, if you’re a business owner.
Rick Daynes: Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So looking back on it, I’m wondering if there’s just one or two decisions that you can remember or that you can remember that you and Robin made on Tyler’s behalf that really helped improve the situation.
Rick Daynes: You know, we, we were falling into a hole. Where we wouldn’t go anywhere because it was easier. So we were going to do what was easiest for our family.
And if it was easier that we shut the doors and both the windows and keep them inside, keep them contained, then that’s what we were doing. But the reality is that’s not what’s best for Tyler and that’s not what’s best for our family. So we signed Tyler up for sports. So at an early age, we put him in soccer.
And, you know, he’s this big lumbering kid and he’s out there with little fast kids and they go running past him and he grabs onto him. Cause he doesn’t, you know, swarm ball. So these kids run past him and he grabs up and you know, parents don’t like that. And so, you know, who’s that kid out there that’s grabbing, you know, all the kids, the kids got to stop it, you know, and I’m.
And you, you hear parents really upset with our kid and you know, we’re, you know, what are we going to do it? We’re sorry, we’re sorry. We’re just, we’re just trying to get some growth out of our kid. We want them to be just like normal kids. And so if you want your kid to be like a normal kid, you put them with normal kids, but it didn’t go real well.
And you know, Tyler at age four was kicked out of indoor soccer and we put him in there a year later and the same thing happened. So, you know, before Tyler was. Five and a half years old, he’d been kicked out of two indoor soccer leagues, but we decided, and we made that decision. Look, we’re not going to worry about what people think.
We’re not going to worry about what people say. We are going to get out. We’re going to get after it because we’re not going to grow. If we’re a bunch of recluse in our house, not doing anything, growth is out there in the real world. We just need to find it. So I’ll tell you. One story that was huge for us because we kept signing him up for things.
And it felt like we were just beating our heads against the wall because we couldn’t see any growth. We, we thought, you know, why are we putting ourselves through this? And it was, it was really difficult. Well, one of the things that we got him in to was karate, so there’s a. A class, not far from our house where they welcome all kids with special needs and it’s free.
All right. So again, awesome people doing awesome programs, the free class. So we take them down there and there’s kids with autism. There’s a lot of down syndrome kids in there, and our kid is in there doing karate. And he is by far the worst. I mean, he is, he is by far. The worst, you know, he’s the guy that’s running into the corner and he’s not paying attention and he’s not doing anything.
And we suffered through this for, I don’t know, six months or so. And one morning my wife says, everybody get up. This was a Saturday morning. She said, get up. We’re going to go to we’re all going to Tyler’s karate tournament. And I thought, are you kidding me? Like, we’re going to, we can’t get the kid to sit still.
There’s no way we’re going to get them to participate in a karate tournament. I’ve never been to a karate tournament. I didn’t know anything about it. And so, you know, we load up the family van and off we go, we’re going to go to this karate tournament. And I’m thinking, this is just great. We’re going to get there.
We’re going to just make fools out of ourselves. Really?
David Hirsch: How old was Tyler at this point in time?
Rick Daynes: Maybe six.
David Hirsch: So really young, like first grade?
Rick Daynes: Yeah. So we get there and it’s a big gymnasium and he’s running all over the place. So I’m chasing him all over the place and it’s time for his group to go. And somehow miraculously, he sits down with his group and then his teacher says, come up here, Tyler.
And he’s got these pads and he does a couple of punches and he blocks a couple. It’s like slow motion, right? When the instructor’s trying to hit a six year old, he blocks the punches and then he kicks and he did really did, you know, pretty good. We were, we were, you know, we thought, Oh, this is great, you know?
And so Tyler’s done. Okay. Tyler, go sit down with your group. Well, he’s not going to do that. You know, he, bolts is running to the bathroom. And so, you know, I go, I get him over there and I’m basically holding the squirming kid. Well, his group finishes up. Then they have the awards presentation. And so, you know, third place goes to so and so second place goes to so-and-so and they’ve got these big trophies in my kid can see it.
I’m holding him in the stands and he’s so upset that he hasn’t got a trophy. That again, he gets away from him and he’s running around and the teacher gets up and he’s holding this trophy. It’s about the same size as Tyler, big green and gold trophy. And he says, Tyler, don’t you want your trophy? And he got first place, you know, of course, when you’re in special needs, they’re going to give it to whoever they think is going to grow the most from that situation, I think.
And he saw that and he ran over there and he got this trophy and I’m telling you all of the garbage that we’ve gone through. All of the things that we’ve tried to get them involved in all the times that we took them out of the house. To take a walk or go to the beach or do something in hopes that something will click all of that became validated because he stood there on the podium with his trophy.
And I looked at my wife and she’s just bawling. I mean, she’s got tears are flowing and it was maybe. The happiest moment that we’d had in years, because all of a sudden we realized that, Hey, what we’re doing is the right thing. You know, everything we get involved in, it’s not always going to turn out like this, but this is a win and we are going to celebrate.
We did, you know, we took immediately, we took that trophy, had his name engraved on, it, took tons of pictures, you know, went out for ice cream. And we really just took that and ran with it. And we knew that, you know, it’s difficult being a parent with special needs kids, but if you don’t get out and try to get them to grow, then you’re doing everybody in your family, a disservice because there’s growth that, and I don’t care what the disability is.
There’s growth that can come from everywhere. So I mean that one situation that was such a validating point in our lives and in our marriage, in an art. Our team really, as a, as a family,
David Hirsch: I love that story. And, um, a couple of takeaways, at least my takeaways were that it sounded like a transformative experience.
Not only for Tyler by who’s, you know, sort of celebrating in a way that he maybe hadn’t experienced before and then for you and Robin to have all this validated for you. Right. Which is to say, we’re going to keep doing this right. Um, and it wasn’t the easy journey up until that point. It sounds like it was a pretty chaotic roller coaster type experience.
And one of the other things I heard you say is that by making yourself vulnerable, by getting out there and interacting, you’re exposing yourself, but it doesn’t feel comfortable or natural. But if you have your eye on the long term, versus just staying put and playing it safe and staying at home and not standing out, you know, or people are staring or talking, which is really hard.
And I think of this as, by not doing what you did, you’re actually further handicapping your child and that applies to children with special needs or typical kids,
Rick Daynes: right? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Putting
David Hirsch: them out there letting them experience whatever it is to be experienced. And, you know, let’s face the facts.
Life is hard, right. And they need to understand that not every body is successful, right. Not every time you’d try something. Do you succeed? And you know, it’s more important. How you react to that situation. I’ve never having tried at all. So thank you for sharing that story. That’s a really heartwarming story.
Rick Daynes: Just to go off of what you just said. You know, I look at our kids and whether they have special needs or they’re typical or whatever the situation is, we look at them and we think, what can we do to help this kid tap his potential? You know, sometimes you don’t know, you don’t know what their potential is.
And that’s why you got to dig and you got to find out what, you know, what it is, what can you do? I just read the story of Michael Phelps. Again, you know, that kid had issues and his mom was lucky enough to find an outlet for him in swimming, you know, gets in his lane. He’s comfortable in that situation.
And really there’s a tremendous amount of growth there and that’s going to help him through everything in life. And that’s kind of what we look for. We look for. No. When does this kid need to be pushed? When do we need to hold back? When do we need to let them have a break? When do we need to, you know, introduce him to new stimulus, new activities, new, new things.
So, I mean, it’s all about, it’s all about trying to find, just to help them to reach their potential.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. So let’s switch gears, child. Number three, Jeremiah. Who’s now 13 as a couple of years younger than Tyler and he’s in the picture. During what you’re conveying. And he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
And I’m wondering, when was that? And what was your reaction to that situation?
Rick Daynes: My marriage struggled mightily through this time with Tyler and when we got Tyler in a good place, a better place than he was. Okay. So we. He’s getting a little better. Like we can see him kind of turning the corner a little bit and you know, a little bit of growth here and there.
And I’m going to say Tyler was in second or third grade and we’ve noticed it before that our third child had quirky behaviors. Of course he’s evaluated and comes home with an Asperger’s diagnosis. So let me just tell you where I was at this point in my life from a marriage standpoint. Things couldn’t have been worse.
It was adding insult to injury. It was going from the frying pan into the fire. I thought, you know, we’re finally turning the corner with one kid or maybe we’re not, you know, life is, is a roller coaster. And all of a sudden my other kid comes home and he’s got an Asperger’s diagnosis. So now I’ve got two kids on the spectrum and I thought, I cannot possibly go through this again.
Honestly, I just wanted out. I felt stifled. I felt confined. I felt prison. My wife felt the same way we were not communicating well at all. So when I learned, I had two kids that were going to be in the special needs program, you know, it was a, it was a dark, dark time for us and our family. Cause I just couldn’t, you know, I finally come to grips with, I’ve got one kid with special names and now I’ve got two.
And for me, all the things you dream about for your kid, Let me think of the, the dreams, you know, maybe they’re going to play sports, maybe they’re going to do this or do that. And you just have these hopes and dreams and it’s like, somebody takes a hammer and smashes them. I
David Hirsch: can’t even imagine. But, um, thank you for being as authentic as you have been about the state of your marriage and what was going through your mind at that point in time about wanting to get out, feeling confined or stifled.
And would you categorize that as. Either a clinical depression or just being super depressed, whether it was diagnosed or not.
Rick Daynes: Um, you know, I don’t know. I, I, I didn’t go seek any help or treatment for myself. I just did what I could to deal with it. But, uh, you know, it was certainly certainly a difficult time.
David Hirsch: So was there any advice you got after Jeremiah’s diagnosis? Looking back on it, you can say. That was really useful or that helped Robin and me sort of get the train back on the tracks.
Rick Daynes: Yeah. So Robin and I, we hadn’t, we were not doing the things that you need to be doing as a married couple. Right. We weren’t dating, we weren’t watching out for each other.
We weren’t doing things. We weren’t serving each other. I was upset a lot. She was upset a lot. And I finally went to my mom one day and I said, mom, listen, would you do me a favor? I said, Robin and I, we need to get away. And she’s like, think, I mean, like she knows, right? She knows, grandma knows, you know, when there’s problems.
And I said, look, can you watch my kids for a week? And she says, absolutely. And I said, listen, I don’t care if. I don’t care if they don’t go to piano practice. I don’t care if they don’t go to soccer. I don’t care if they miss the birthday party. I don’t care if they don’t go to school. I don’t care if they don’t go to church.
I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I don’t care if you lock the house and keep everybody inside all week, as long as they’re alive. When I get home, that’s all I care about. And I took Robin on the cheapest Mexican vacation. I can find we went to Mexico and we just, we stayed in a cheap place. W, uh, we had no cell phone usage.
We had nothing, right? There’s no bus coming to pick up our kids every morning. There’s no dealing with teachers. There’s no work. There’s no nuts. There’s no nothing. And we just had each other and it took, you know, a day or two where we reminded each other of the person that we married. We figured out that we liked each other a couple more days.
We figured that we loved each other and that we were going to make this work. We sat down in our little bungalow in Mexico with no nothing around us, not even a TV, nothing. And we just concentrated on each other and on our kids. And we, we made a formula of all the things that we needed to change and how we were going to change.
And change is hard, man. It’s super hard. Like if. If you are in the habit of doing something every day, you’re in this routine is so difficult to break that routine, but we made lists, we made goals and we really stuck to it and we changed. And that’s why our marriage today is so successful is because we were able to, to change.
And it was, it’s a humbling. Oh, I can’t tell you how humbling having a kid with special needs is you just, you know, it’s like you’re broken down. And then you got to figure out a way to build up. We figured out how we were going to change and we build each other up and we tag team and we work as a team and we’re her shortcomings are I come in and where my shortcomings are.
She comes in and we, we managed to, to not only change but thrive. And I can’t tell you today how much joy we find in our. Children in our lives. And I would say it’s, especially our marriage
David Hirsch: very powerful was so glad that your mom was able to help out, which seemed like it could have been pretty challenging.
Rick Daynes: Oh yeah. I mean, God bless grandmas and siblings and friends who watch kids. So parents can, you know, take a night out or a day or two or even a week. I mean, if you’ve got to. Uh, mother-in-law or someone that you trust that will watch your kids for a week. I mean, that has been so important for
David Hirsch: us. Yeah.
That respite is what people refer to it as.
Rick Daynes: Yeah, absolutely.
David Hirsch: Whether it’s once a year, once a quarter or once a month, a day here and there, even if it’s just a few hours where you can go to a movie to go to dinner, whatever it might be just to, you know, like hit the pressure valve. Right. Take some of the pressure off the situation.
Rick Daynes: And I think every state has a respite program. Maybe they call it something else. But to me, that program has been maybe the most valuable program that we’ve been able to take advantage of.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Thanks for sharing. So one more question about Jeremiah and it has to do mostly with POS burgers.
Is there a particular challenge that you faced or a way that you’ve overcome that challenge on his behalf?
Rick Daynes: So these kids with Asperger’s Jeremiah, I would say used to be the typical Asperger’s kid. And I think he’s really grown out of it extensively. He’s doing very well now, but I would say the most difficult thing dealing with him.
Let’s go back two or three years. He had zero filter. Now I know a lot of people said my kid has no filter. Right. He just, whatever goes in, his head comes out of his mouth, but I’m telling you, Jeremiah had no filter at all. Let me give you one situation. So I’m in my garage and I’m getting some lugs down.
I’m I’m going on a trip and Jeremiah is in there and we’re talking, my neighbor stops by. You know, wonderful lady who lives next door. And she says, Oh, Rick, your garage. It’s so well organized. I mean, look, you’ve got everything. It’s just so well organized. And I said, what? No, my garage is a total mess. Your garage is way nicer than mine.
And she says, no, no, no, you, you know, you really got a great garage here. Look how you organize everything in. Jeremiah says, Oh, dad, Their garage is way worse than ours and you should see their house. Oh my gosh. And another example, he’ll be in school and he’ll just be really frustrated. You know, he doesn’t want to do the work.
He’s not doing what his teacher asks. His teacher comes and stands over him and he looks up at her and he says, I just want to slap you, you know, fourth grader saying this to his teacher, you know, and we live in California. That’s considered a threat. So we’re all getting hauled into the principal’s office.
You know, these kinds of things happen all the time. Was he a challenge? Yes. Is he a challenge? Yes. He’s not nearly as big of a challenge as Tyler was. He’s typical. A lot of these Asperger kids are geniuses and that’s the way Jeremiah is. He’s really super smart. He’ll probably be an engineer. He loves Legos.
He loves building things. If we get him anything for his, uh, his birthday was yesterday. We got them an electric drum set. And if I were to set that drum set up, that would be a slap in the face because that’s what he loves to do. He loves to tinker with it. He’s gonna set it up. He’s gonna, you know, and he’s not even going to read the instructions, right.
He’s just going to figure it out and do it the way he thinks it should be done. And that’s kind of how he, how he is, but. You know, he’s really got a great sense of humor, which has been super fun around our house. So that, I mean, that’s Jeremiah for it. He’s a genius. He’s funny. He’s a little awkward, but just a great, great kid.
David Hirsch: for sharing. So, as I remember the story, I want to talk about Eli, the third of your children who has special needs, but, uh, you had another child in between your daughter’s summer.
Rick Daynes: Right.
David Hirsch: So why don’t you start with the decision that you and Robin, I think consciously made to throw your hat in the ring and have a fourth child right now, your hands are full.
Like you’ve just described, you’ve gone from two on one demand, demand his own defense with three kids and. What was the, you and Robin were thinking that said, Oh, let’s have another kid. We’re having so much fun.
Rick Daynes: So when we started our family, you know, we want a boy and a girl, we just want a boy and a girl and a dog.
That’s that’s what is to be the perfect family, right? So we try to have a girl and that didn’t work. And then we tried again for a girl and that didn’t work. And we tried again for a girl and that didn’t work. So we got these three boys and two of them has special needs and we are done. You know, when we turn things around, our marriage became stronger, but we became better people all around.
In fact, one of the things that we, that you and I haven’t talked about was you got to take care of, you got to look out for number one. So I would make sure that Robin had things in her life. She loves to play tennis. She needs a break every now and then I need to do some physical exercise. I need to, maybe I need to read a book every now and then, like, there’s certain things that I need to do for myself and she needs to do for her.
And then there’s things we need to do to strengthen our marriage. And when you strengthen your marriage and you strengthen each other, then you take care of yourself. You’re just a better person. And when that happened, everything got better. Even our kids got better. Like everything just seemed to get better.
And so we’d made these changes in our lives and life was really fun again. And Robin came to me one day and she said, Hey, Rick, I think we’re such a good place. I think we need to go back to our original plan. And I said, Oh, you think we can have a girl? We can’t have a girl. Like we tried three times to have a girl.
And I’m Googling it. You know, what are the chances? We can have three boys in a row and then have a girl. And the odds are not in our favor. I mean, it’s a, you know, according to the stats, I was looking at it wasn’t a 50 50 shot. It was like, we’re going to have another boy. And so, uh, she said, no, I know it.
I know it. We can have a girl and sure enough, we went for it. And, uh, you know, we’ve had a girl name. We had all this girl stuff picked out. From the get go, like for when we were engaged and we decided we were going to have kids, like we had a girl name, her name was summer. So we had summer and she is everything that we planned on, which is really amazing because nothing that we’d planned on for 10 years had happened.
You know, she’s got this blonde, curly hair, these big fat SHEEX. I mean, she’s just adorable. And so sweet. You know, I got these three boys. I love them. They’re great. But there’s something about a little girl that just melts your heart. And she was two years old and we’re still in a really good place. And my wife says, Hey, Rick, I think summer needs a friend.
And I said, yeah, she’ll have lots of friends. I’ve got neighbors, cousins. And she goes, no, no, no. She needs a playmate. And I said, she can play with her brothers. And she says, no, Now Rex, he looked at the boys, the three boys they’re up here. Right. And there’s a six year gap. And then we have summer, like the boys will be gone by the time, you know, summer gets into high school.
It’ll just be us. She needs a playmate. And I was like, you know, you’re willing to have another kid I’m on board. You know, we’ll just throw a bunk bed and the girl room, we got all the girl clothes. We got the girl toys we got, we got all the we room is pink. We’re girl down. And so we thought, okay. And, and so we will just have a clone of her, right?
We’ll have another girl looks exactly like her. We’ll all be good. And so we went for it and that’s when we got Eli. So Eli is our son who has down syndrome and autism. And that’s, that’s the story. And, uh, there’s a thousand stories that go along with Eli. From when we found out we were having a child with down syndrome till now, and having that girl in place three years older than him is such a blessing.
She is his second mom. Right. She walks, you know, we walk them to the, to the bus, but she comes with us every time she doesn’t miss it. She’s she is by his side. Oh all the time and watches over him and helps feed him and helps change his diapers and helps, um, play with him endlessly. And it’s just been a godsend to our family, um, into our, our, our Eli that’s
David Hirsch: fabulous.
So you guys are a little bit of gamblers, right? You are going to roll the dice, not just a fourth time, but a fifth time.
Rick Daynes: Yeah. Oh yeah.
David Hirsch: It’s just an amazing story. And the burning question on my mind, maybe it listeners minds is that Eli’s five. Now. Are you guys done? Yeah. Are you still planning on having more kids?
Rick Daynes: Oh, we’re done. We’re done, done, done.
David Hirsch: Like you’ve officially taken care of it done.
Rick Daynes: Yeah. It’s officially taken care of it’s done, but I’ll tell you something. You’ve said a couple of times how we put ourselves out there and we do, we. We talk about everything now, we, we never used to talk about anything and now we talk about everything.
There are no secrets and it would not surprise me if we adopted a child with special needs one day, because, you know, we feel like we’re in this game. When we found out we were having a kid with down syndrome, we thought, you know what, who better to have a kid with down syndrome than us? Like we know what we’re doing and.
I would not put it past my wife to suggest such a thing or me to accept it or do anything like that. I mean, we’re, we’re in. Okay.
David Hirsch: Well, Robin might be listening to this interview, just FYI.
Rick Daynes: Well, we’ve already discussed, we’ve already thrown it around a little bit from time to time. We’d discuss things like that.
David Hirsch: So this would not be the first time that she might hear it.
Rick Daynes: It won’t be the first
David Hirsch: time. Okay, then you’re good to go.
Rick Daynes: Yeah. Yeah.
David Hirsch: So I’m wondering what have been some of the bigger challenges having a child with down syndrome and autism over the last five years now?
Rick Daynes: Well, about actually not about exactly 12 minutes before my scheduled interview with you.
I got a call from school to come pick him up because he had had an accident. Kids with down syndrome have all kinds of issues that I never knew about. And one of them is, is their bowels. Everything from going to the bathroom to learning, to walking low muscle tone, being slower to advance, but there is so much, he is absolutely the favorite kid around here.
My kid says to me that am I, who’s your favorite kid? Eli. It’s not even close. And then they’ll say, dad, you can’t have a favorite kid, but it’s true. I mean, like everybody in this house, he’s the favorite brother. He’s the favorite kid. Everybody loves him. He brings a spirit into our home that I can’t really explain.
I mean, it is just so sweet and rewarding and people gravitate towards him. He’s just full of love.
David Hirsch: Excellent. So let’s switch gears and talk about your book. The title of which is keep it together, man, for dads with special kids. When did you write the book and why?
Rick Daynes: I wrote the book while we were going through our most difficult times with Tyler, every time we would go do a study, we would read a book, we would try something new.
I would write about it. Writing became my therapy. And then when I looked for dad’s guide, For having a family with special needs. I couldn’t find it. And when my wife and I got ourselves turned around and on the right path and made these changes and we talked about it, like, how did we get to this place?
Like life was so bad before, and it’s so good. Now we feel so happy. We’re so blessed. And she looked at me and she said, now what are we going to do to help others? And I said, Oh, I said, I’m going to write the book. And she. She was waiting for that exact response. And she says, yes, you are.
David Hirsch: How long did it take you to write the book?
And where do you find the time to do that with all your kids?
Rick Daynes: Well, it took me seven years to write the book from the, when I was gathering notes. I, I thought that this would eventually turn into a book and Robin and I had talked about it. And we were really, we, we benefited so much from reading other people’s stories.
It was huge for us. And so I felt like, you know what? I need to help my fellow man, other parents. And I need to, I need to put this, these experiences down and tell people what worked for us and what didn’t work. Basically. My book. Is everything. I wish someone would have sat me down 15 years ago and said, here’s what you need to know.
And here’s what you don’t need to know. Here’s where you might waste a lot of your time, but here’s where your energy needs to be spent. So that’s kind of what I did when I compiled a keep it together, man. Okay.
David Hirsch: So who would benefit most from reading your book? Any
Rick Daynes: parents. Um, in fact, I get messages all the time from parents that have just normal kids, typical kids.
I mean, I don’t even know if there is such a thing as a typical kid. Every kid is different. Every kid is, as God is. Um, you know, his quirks has ups and downs, and I think it’s just a general good parenting book because it teaches you. It’s a relationship book, teaches you a lot about how to take care of yourself.
And how to take care of your spouse. Teamwork. I talk a lot about the problems that we had as a family, but with, with special needs. But I think it really applies to all parents. So
David Hirsch: I’m wondering if there’s been any surprises you’ve experienced since you wrote the book, whether it’s feedback you received, or maybe something you learned after you put it all in writing
Rick Daynes: the thing that surprised me the most.
Is that even though it’s a man written for men, it’s written for dads, it’s read overwhelmingly by women and it’s not even close. I think men will download the audible it’s on iTunes and audible. They’ll download and they’ll listen to it. But by and large women are the biggest readers of keep it together, man.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. Under the category of advice. I’m wondering what are the most important takeaways that come to mind when thinking about raising a child with differences,
Rick Daynes: you know, life is going to be as fun and as successful as you make it. And it doesn’t matter if your kid, uh, is a quadriplegic, does it matter about his brain capacity?
It doesn’t matter about his physical capabilities. Life is going to be as good and as fun and as successful as you make it. Never ever use your child as a crutch or as an excuse. I don’t think he’s going to use you as a crutch or as an excuse. So don’t ever do that and you know, every now and then you need to look back and look at the growth in your own life because sometimes life isn’t going to get any easier.
You’re just going to get stronger and you’re just going to become a better person. So life might take some, some downturns, but you’re a better person. You’re a stronger person. You know, you don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be overly courageous, but sometimes you just gotta be able to roll with the punches.
And when you do that long enough, you become so good at doing it that you make life fun for yourself and for everyone around you.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m sort of curious to know, why did you agree to be a mentor father as part of the special father’s
Rick Daynes: network? Oh, I love it. Um, No, I did not have a mentor when we were in the trenches and I really wish I would have had one.
It’s a reward. Really? It’s a reward for me to be able to, to help out any parent or anyone who might be struggling. You know, that’s one of the blessings of life is that you get to give you’re happier person giving than receiving. It’s my pleasure. It’s my, it’s a blessing to me and my house that I can give.
And I am honored when people call me and say, Hey, Rick, I’ve got a friend. They just found out they’re having a child with down syndrome. Their child’s just been diagnosed with autism. Could you say anything? And we’ll just for our date night, we’ll go out and meet parents that we think might be struggling.
Or that, that a friend said, Hey, you know my brother or, or I’ve got this person in my neighborhood. Uh, you know, we’ll just try to meet people and just let them know, Hey, you know what? It’s not the end of the world. This is a, this is a blessing and you can do this
David Hirsch: well, we’re thrilled to have you as part of the network and look forward to developing a more meaningful relationship as time goes by.
So I’m wondering, is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Rick Daynes: You know, the relationship that I have with my wife cannot be understated. It is the most important relationship. That I have, well, I should say my relationship with my wife and with God is a three way relationship. We have open lines of communication through prayer with God, and we have open lines of communication, just speaking to each other.
And I think that one of the things that is so important in my life is nurturing both of those relationships because. If the team captains aren’t leading the way that they should be. If they’re not on the same page, then the team isn’t going to fire on all cylinders. So date your wife, take her on a getaway every now and then just the two of you and nurture that relationship and life will treat you, treat you better for you.
David Hirsch: if somebody wants to get a copy of your book, keep it together, man, or contact you, how would they go about doing that?
Rick Daynes: keepittogetherman.org. Is our website and we do a lot of fun things on that. I, I like to write, I still post, I still blog. We do it on, keep it together, man.org. My book, you can find it there.
You can find it on Amazon. You can find it on iTunes and audible. There’s even a Kindle version. Uh, we do a lot of public speaking. And you can always reach me at, uh, Rick@keepittogetherman.org.
David Hirsch: Great. Rick, thanks for taking the time in many insights as reminder, Rick’s just one of the dads who has agreed to be a mentor father as 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 Metro father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org, Rick. Thanks again.
Rick Daynes: Thank you, David. It was a pleasure.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network.
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 fathers to support fathers, 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.
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The dad to dad podcast is produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.