(And six fun things I get from being Bettina’s Dad)

I think I can safely say we are not an especially religious family, however, we do often say that our youngest daughter Bettina is a ‘gift from god’ (we also say that she is our ‘crown jewels’).

This morning, Bettina is in our sitting room composing herself for the day ahead. She likes this ‘me’ time without anyone disturbing her, e.g. me telling her how much I love her or asking her what she is going to do today. I can hear her singing to herself and repeating what she is planning for her day ahead (read eight books, finds 10 snails, feed the donkeys she cares for and the colour of her nails (her Personal Assistant will do this for her).

If you are new to my series ‘Being Bettina’s Dad’ Bettina is a woman who copes with a learning disability, autism and epilepsy and, as mentioned in my twitter ‘bio’, is one of my awesome daughters.

I share stories on my ‘Being Bettina’s Dad’ series on my blog and in my monthly Leadership Pack to inspire readers to look at the world a little differently and help people on their leadership journey and, most importantly, to learn as I do from Bettina.

It is Bettina’s birthday in a couple of weeks and as we reflect on another wonderful year in Bettina’s life, we think about what she has brought to our lives. Both Joyce and I could summarise it in one sentence: Bettina makes us better people.

One of my favourite quotes is from Michelle Obama: ‘Find people who make you better’ it is something I have endeavoured to do in both my personal and my professional lives and I have constantly benefited from doing this. This blog post is about how Bettina has made me a better person.

(I will write another post soon on how I have done this in both my Army and my Social Sector careers).

Six ways I think Bettina has made me a better person:

  1. Bettina, more often than not is ‘in the moment’. Me? I am either looking back or looking into to the future too often, when really I should just enjoy being in ‘the now’ and savour those moments. Bettina has made me more mindful https://leadershipintheraw.org/2016/03/10/being-bettinas-dad-bettina-transforming-my-life-with-mindfulness/ Bettina has a joy of life which is infectious – I am so glad I caught her bug.
  2. My communication systems and processes are enhanced. Previously I had relied (perhaps too much) on verbal skills. I was not able to do this with Bettina as she was unable to verbally communicate effectively until she was 10 years old. Even now her speech can be limited, so Bettina taught me the importance of visual clues and to focus on other aspects of communication such as body language. Such as how she uses hers and paying attention to my own body language and the signals they may give. Joyce covered this in her blog ‘Care to Communicate’ https://leadershipintheraw.org/2015/02/12/being-bettinas-mum-care-to-communicate/
  3. Bettina always acts without prejudice. Bettina does not discriminate. She takes each person on their merits – everybody starts with a ‘clean slate’ with her. Although this can make Bettina vulnerable, it is a wonderful quality that I try to emulate each day.
  4. Bettina focuses on what is important and lets the rest go. I am not there yet and definitely not up to Bettina’s standard, but I am in a better place because of her: https://leadershipintheraw.org/2019/02/07/do-what-is-important-and-let-the-rest-go/
  5. While Bettina (like the rest of us) can get frustrated with what she is trying to achieve, she has an abundance of patience as she tries to work things out. It was absolutely fascinating watching how she worked out the controls on our DVD machine some years ago. She did it through trial and error. I have been too quick to say “this is something I can’t do” on some piece of technology. This morning I worked out how to change a setting on my smart phone. I now follow Bettina’s systematic approach to solving a problem.
  6. Bettina helps us dig deep. Bettina came into our life during a two year Berlin posting. We were now a young family of four, living far away from our extended family in the UK, so we had to dig deep to look after each other: https://leadershipintheraw.org/2015/11/27/being-bettinas-dad-when-love-is-not-enough-to-keep-you-safe-and-secure/ Bettina needs 24/7 support, so as a family we continue to dig deep for her and Bettina digs even deeper for us. Bettina shows and gives her love unconditionally and we do the same for her.

Six fun things I get from being Bettina’s Dad:

  1. I get to sing (with Bettina) the latest Muppet soundtrack on the way home from the beach on a Saturday morning. Bettina has an eclectic taste in music from Disney to Jazz. We are going to see one of her favourite bands next year – The Lighthouse Family.
  2. I am living in a time warp. When most people of my age are doing the grandfather thing, thanks to Bettina’s need for consistency, I need to be someone half my years (she has no concept of age). To Bettina I am still: ‘Steve, Daddy Boy’ although I am pretty sure I can no longer carry her on my shoulders!
  3. I get to go to Pantomimes (without embarrassment) and sit through the latest Disney movie (while feigning nonchalance)
  4. I get to hear lots of really cool phrases and expressions from Bettina e.g. “ahh there you are” or “you hem” then adopt them. By the way ‘you hem’ is not a compliment!
  5. Regularly helping Bettina comb Frinton’s (Essex) beach for the right kind of sea shells for our garden.
  6. I can make my coughs sound like sneezes! Because of Bettina’s autism, the sound of a cough by someone who is significant in her life can sound threatening and distressing. I like to think I have perfected my fake sneeze. I am quite proud of this as it is the only thing I can do better than Joyce.

And six reasons why you should always look for people who will make you better:

  1. They help make you think differently and challenge your long held views and perceptions
  2. They bring added quality and joy to your life
  3. They raise your standards (and in the case of Bettina your manners too)
  4. They stop you from being complacent – no resting on your laurels with being Bettina’s Dad
  5. They educate you. (Often without them knowing they are doing this, so show them lots of gratitude).
  6. Because you want to be a better person than you were yesterday.

Thank you Bettina, for changing my life for the last 32 years.

When it comes to finding people who make Bettina better ‘B’ doesn’t have to go too far to meet her role model and the person she tries to emulate every day. It is her big sister Jennifer (see blog post: A role model for Bettina)

Bettina and Jennifer taking a rest between a full on shopping expedition


You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

Woodrow Wilson