In an op-ed for Guidepost, longtime “Today” meteorologist Al Roker opened up about parenting his teenage son, Nick, who has special needs.
According to the husband and father-of-three, Nick is on the spectrum and they also believed he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Roker writes that he and his son often bond when they drive to their home upstate. Because one of his sisters is “grown” and the other is in college, and because Nick’s mom and Roker’s wife, journalist Deborah Roberts, often works the weekends, it’s normally just Roker and Nick in the car:
That drive up and back is some of the best time we have one-on-one. You know, when you have your teenager in a car with you, it’s a good chance to connect—if Nick doesn’t spend too much time distracted by his iPad or phone. Focus and conversation can be a problem for my son, more so than most kids, as he is a kid with special needs.
And some of his proudest moments as a father to Nick come from watching him participate in their church services.
Roker writes that Nick takes his role in the masses very seriously. His job is to carry the cross down the aisle at the beginning of the service.
The weatherman admitted that seeing his son walk down the aisle with such dignity, reverence, and focus is not something they ever thought they would see their son do:
“You must be proud of your son,” someone will say. Yes, I am. More than they’ll ever know. The obstacles in this kid’s way were things that might have tripped up many others. Not Nick, not even with the disabilities he was born with.
He said that it was his dad’s willingness to be comfortable with his own emotions that has helped him become the father he is today.
However, that’s not to say he doesn’t get frustrated at times:
Do I get frustrated with my son sometimes? You bet. But then I remember my dad, how understanding he was. And Deborah reminds me that I have to show my son not only that I love him but that I like him as well. More than that, I admire him.
Roker describes his two children with Roberts, Leila and Nick, as answered prayers.
He and Robert knew very quickly, however, that their son was up against something bigger:
[Nick] too was an answer to prayer—like all children—but we knew right from the beginning that he would be up against a whole different set of challenges. He wasn’t developing as fast as he should have, not holding our fingers as tightly, not always meeting our gaze, not as quick to crawl. At three, he hardly talked and could barely walk.
At a young age, Nick underwent a “slew of tests” to label his differences, but as Roker admitted, “those labels can be frustrating; they don’t begin to describe who Nick really is.”
It’s clear that Roker is immensely proud of his son and his willingness to ignore those people who try to put limitations on him.
But as Roker writes, “Nick never got that message.”