George Stewart is the president of the board of Families as Allies and has been involved with the organization for the past five years. Stewart and his wife Evelyn are the parents of “two beautiful children,” and he describes both of them as “amazing.” Their son is nine years old and their daughter is six.
Stewart shared that his son has several challenges, including being non-verbal. Stewart confessed to being a nervous parent at first, especially since he had no first-hand experience with having a family member with a disability. He remembers thinking “How would I go about life raising this young boy who can’t speak, who needs assistance with everyday daily living activities? How would I go about life raising him and making sure that he’s able to do the things that a lot of us take for granted? And I’m still nervous about it to this day.” Stewart says that his son teaches him every day about what it means to be patient and understanding.
Like the other dads we have talked to, Stewart wanted to share his experience as a father. “I think it’s important because oftentimes we don’t, as fathers and as men, talk about things we’re feeling or how we’re feeling. We have this tendency to just keep things inside. And so there has to be somebody who comes forward and speaks about how they’re feeling and what they’re doing and sharing his experiences.” And Stewart believes that once dads do that, they are able to motivate and inspire other dads to do the same thing.
When it comes to the kind of support he and his family receive, he gives a lot of credit to his son’s special education teacher and also his occupational and speech therapists, and says they’ve been a great source of support. In addition, he says as a board member, but also as a parent, he is always talking about and telling people about Families as Allies and how it can be a great resource and support for families, “especially when you’re talking about how your child is being engaged and treated in the school system.”
We ended the interview with Stewart saying what he thought was the most important thing he wanted to communicate to other dads: “Staying engaged. Constantly staying engaged, being there to see those first steps, to see those academic gains in school, to see those social and emotional gains within themselves. So I definitely want fathers to be engaged and to continue to be engaged and provide social, emotional and academic support for their children.”
“My dream is for fathers to come together, to engage with each other, to help one another out and to be of support to each other, and not do the thing that we call fatherhood in silos.”