“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Russel Barkley
I think of this quote when parenting my kids. It is a great reminder when I’m struggling to manage the problems and issues we often face. I have also thought of it when considering my own actions.
Sometimes, I’m not easy to love. I absolutely admit that I can be a bit of a grouch at times. I can put expectations on my kids that are probably too high for their level of functioning. My feelings get hurt, I lose my temper, and I struggle showing grace – even when I am the one who probably needs it the most.
Last week at a doctor’s appointment for a recent back injury, my doctor asked me how things are going with the kids. I sat for a minute and thought, “Do I tell him the truth that life is hard or do I grin and say things are going fine?” The word “fine” has become the one I use when things really aren’t that fine. It gives a simple response to questions that I don’t want to unpack.
As much as I tried to keep it in, I couldn’t. The tears ran down my face as I explained the issues we are having and how I have been feeling and failing, lately. The funny thing (actually, not that funny) is when you are told “maybe tomorrow will be better”, deep down you know that it probably won’t be. Instead of offering a rallying cry to me, my doctor let me cry. Soon, he brought in a counselor they have on staff and she also just let me cry. It felt good to release it. I should probably do that more often.
Fast forward a few days from this appointment to my birthday (yes, I just turned another year older). My children were having a rough night. I’ve learned not to expect nights without behaviors – even on special occasions. As I opened my gifts, one of my children handed me a letter…
Thank you for sooo much for being graceful, and loving to me and for adopting me and helping me up when I’m hurt, cheering me up when I’m sad and you love me no matter what I do. Thank you for being my mom for the best years of my life.
Did you read that?
Best years of my life.
I cried as I read it and looked at my child. Soon, this child’s eyes were welling up as I opened up my arms for a big hug. I will hang on to this letter. I will read it over and over again during the good times and the bad.
It is hard to explain what it is like to raise children who struggle with lots of things – mental health, academics, behavioral issues, etc. From the outside, my kids look perfect. Their outside appearances do not match what is going on internally. Because of this, there are false perceptions made about all of us.
Having been down a bit from the past few weeks of challenges, I have been in need of a lot of grace. I have wondered in desperation if I was equipped to handle the arrows aimed in my direction and at my children. I have questioned if there will ever be a relief or a miracle or something that proves the heartaches and hardships will make sense one day.
Through a child’s words, I was offered that grace. It spoke straight to the heart. I was given the gift of encouragement and a glimpse into why it is so important to keep going. I was reminded of the need to offer grace, the feeling of being loved, the importance of helping and encouragement, and that (often) we parents are our children’s entire worlds. My child’s letter thanking me for the grace I have shown actually provided me with the grace I have searched for, lately. What a powerful moment it was.
Although my child wrote the letter, I see God’s hand all over it. I hear Him saying, “There you go…there you go. See? I told you it is worth it. You do matter. Your children matter. You may not see it every day, but your children do and so do I.”
Parents of children with extra needs, moments like the one I experienced reading my child’s letter may not come around very often. I know this. You know this, as well. We find ourselves not only managing the typical antics and activities of childhood, but also managing the extra stuff; the kind that yearns to siphon whatever energy or hope we have left at the end of the day. Some days, it isn’t very much, is it?
We have to remember that we are making a difference even if we don’t see the results immediately. We must believe that even though a miracle may not occur, our actions, stability, support and love are miraculous to our children. It is okay to admit our failures. It is totally acceptable to dwell in the knowledge that we are desperate for a measure of grace on any given day.
Keep going. Keep the faith. Even if you think no one is noticing, remember that your children are.
So is the Lord.
Praise Him for that.