Pouring Into a Broken Cup

My child looked at me and said, “I’m not sure I was made for this world.”

Gut punch.

Eyes welled up.

I did my best to tell my child that there are moments throughout our lives (even as adults) when we wonder about our purpose. We hugged, shared tears and I whispered words of encouragement to my child. This wasn’t the first time my child has said something like this. I thought we had crossed that bridge; met that need, etc. However, that part of my child still leaks.

Parenting kids with extra needs feels like pouring into a broken cup that has a leak in it. No matter how often or how much you keep pouring, the cup never seems to fill up.

Take your favorite coffee cup (or, if you are one of those people who don’t drink coffee, imagine your favorite cup of the beverage of your choice). You love this cup. It has some sort of significant meaning to you. Each day, you greet this cup with joy because you know you can pour your stuff right into it.

Now, imagine if your favorite cup never seems to fill up. You search it and discover a small, ever-so-tiny, crack. You fix that crack and pour into it again. It seems to hold your drink just fine until you notice it leaking again. You search and discover a different crack. You patch that up because you just can’t stand the thought of never using your favorite cup again.

You get up each day with the hope of “This time, my cup will not leak.” Some days, it works! You jump for joy and savor each sip. You go to bed thinking, “Perhaps, I actually fixed it this time.”

The next day, you get up, pour the same amount into the cup, and…yikes. You are pouring into a broken cup. The cup not only leaks your drink all over the place, it literally won’t even hold a single drop. It gets messy. Sometimes, it leaks all over you. You get sad and angry and then sad again. You look at your cup and think, “I’m not giving up on you. I know you will hold liquid again” and then, you patch it up (again) knowing that you may have to repair it in the future.

This is what parenting kids with complex needs feels like; to constantly pour, fix, and pour again knowing that you will never be able to mend all the cracks.

Of course, I’m not comparing children to coffee mugs – at least, not literally. There are days where no leaks seem to appear and your child just goes along the day without any significant issues. You get a glimpse of normalcy.

Most days, though, life is not like this. Before anyone complains that I’m complaining, I truly hope you don’t think that. Although each day as a parent to three children with extra needs is challenging, I know that pouring into them – leaks or not – is worthy of the time and effort. However, parenting kids with extra needs is exhausting. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually.

Observing other people’s children who always seem to have their cups filled and who are “winning” at friendships, academics and other aspects of life, can be downright depressing. It is NOT that we want other children to fail. Not at all. It is just that the issues that a lot of parents face or worry about pale in comparison to the issues of those of us who are raising extra-needed kids.

When one parent worries about whether her child will make the starting line-up of a sports team, we worry that our children won’t even be allowed to try out due to behavioral issues. When one parent complains about a child staying up too late watching YouTube, we struggle with children who literally can’t sleep without medical intervention. When we look at images of kids at birthday parties or other social events, we grieve that our kids are not invited to any parties.

The saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” is true, but it is hard to have a full cup when the ones you are pouring into have so many leaks. Our own cups get depleted – almost to the point that we don’t have anything else to pour out. Yet, we keep pouring into a broken cup. We keep hoping. We keep praying.

Considering this, I also look to the Lord. He sees me as a cup that is always needing to be repaired. I can be fragile. I have cracks. I need to be restored on a daily basis.

I can just imagine him saying, “Girl. We’ve fixed that. Don’t you bring that up again.” I can also hear him saying, “Girl. You are worth it. I will restore you each and every day. There is nothing that won’t cause me to repair you and make you whole.” He is pouring into a broken cup on a daily basis.

Those of us who have been chosen (because I believe that) to parent children with extra needs may question if we are meant for this parenting experience. Yet, we are.

Some days, we hold it all together. Other days, we leak like crazy. However, we are repaired and restored each day by the Lord so that we can do the same for His little soul vessels – our children – our beautiful and broken cups.

One thought on “Pouring Into a Broken Cup

  1. AJS

    Thank you for sharing this. We are raising our nephew and nieces for 7+ yrs now due to my brother’s mental health and their mother’s instability – and their early years left them with a load of issues from the neglect, constant moves and barriers to healthy consistent attachments, and potential abuse that we don’t know for sure but it breaks my heart to know how likely it was that that’s also part of their story too. At 13 now our niece has developed an eating disorder as a pretty common coping mechanism for handling the various struggles her life has handed her – and were working with her heard to combat the eating disorder and build her up where so many cracks are in her foundation – it’s overwhelming and heartbreaking often. Thank you for sharing 💛

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