VERNON, B.C. – On Wednesday morning, Josh Dueck dropped off his two kids, Nova, 8, and Hudson, 5, at school, and gave them hugs and kisses before informing them he would only return Saturday night.
“See you after school Dad,” said one of the children.
“See you on the weekend,” he replied.
“Aww you got to go for work again Dad?”
With pandemic restrictions slowly subsiding this has become a common scene once again with parents across Canada. The heartbreaking tradition of leaving for the workplace whether it’s for a day, a week or even longer in order to assure the family has a roof over their heads and food to eat.
Dueck is currently in the midst of a whirlwind of activities, but thankfully he will make it home in time for Father’s Day on Sunday.
The Paralympic Games men’s sit-skiing super combined champion in 2014 was at an adaptive surfing event last week in Hawaii. After a one-day pit stop at home in Vernon, B.C., he was off to Calgary for Freestyle Skiing Canada meetings. Dueck is the executive director of Freestyle BC.
His children had Daddy home for almost two years and are now learning the reality of his job as an important public figure who works in the demanding world of high-performance sport and is a trail blazer for sport opportunities for people with a disability.
‘’I’m back to managing my time with early mornings and late evenings so I can be with the family,” said Dueck, Canada’s chef de mission at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. ‘’I’m a very active taxi driver for my kids and that’s where I get the best quality time with them. Also being able to work from home allows me to be engaged as much as I can as a Dad.”
As any parent knows, the hours spent with kids at those young ages are precious. Whether it’s teaching card games and reading books with Nova or participating in the curiosities of Hudson, Dueck knows these are times to savour.
But as Dueck points out, he and his wife Lacey are also getting an education.
“Children are great teachers,” he said. ‘’They see things in a new way with serious eyes and it’s amazing to witness that. They give a sense of purpose to life and even with all the things I’ve endured in my life, there’s nothing more important than my children.’’
Life as a parent, just as for an athlete, has its up and downs.
“As much as it’s romantic and beautiful, it’s the most intense challenge I’ve ever faced,’’ said Dueck, a two-time Paralympian who was also recently elected to the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council. ‘’It’s the most selfless task. You go from the top of the totem pole to the very bottom, but parenting is the biggest growth opportunity.”
While the pandemic has turned the world upside down over the last two years, Dueck is thankful it provided more family time.
‘’The pandemic for my family was wonderful for the reduction in travel,’’ said Dueck as he awaited his flight to Calgary on Wednesday. ‘’I feel very fortunate I was able to work from home. The last two years I’ve been able to strengthen my family relationships.”
In March 2004, Dueck became a paraplegic when he overshot a demonstration jump in freestyle skiing. The accident did not stop his athletic endeavours as he won Paralympic Games, world championships, and X Games titles on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
His children have never known their father not in a wheelchair.
‘’Having a disability, there are things I can’t do that I would like to do as a father,” he said. ‘’It’s a huge challenge. Our kids don’t know any different, they were born into a life in which their Dad was already in a wheelchair.’’
Dueck is a hero to his kids as he is to Canadians for his ability to overcome barriers and achieve excellence.
‘’Kids of parents with a disability see their parents work through struggles and challenges in life.
‘’I think that will carry on with them for the rest of their lives and make them more accepting and empathetic of all the differences that we carry.”