Our thoughts can become focused on so many different things. New restaurant in town? Check out the menu and head there soon. School? Classes, friends, exams, the future. The job? Tasks, schedules, guidelines, expectations. Newborn baby? Long nights. Short years. Favorite book? Can’t put it down. New home? It’s the dream one!
True love? Always on my mind! As it should be.
One of the aspects of having a child that cannot take care of themselves is making sure their needs are being met. I think it is safe to say that universally, moms and dads approach parenting differently. In one family, the mom may be the disciplinarian and in another, it may be the dad. In one family the dad orders the pizza and in another, it may be the mom. Family dynamics vary and there isn’t one that is solely correct.
However, it seems when it comes to emotional connections, most of us Mama Bears are just wired with a heightened sense of responsibility. Caution. A sixth sense. An internal clock. A duty that won’t go away. Dear dads, this does not in any form or fashion suggest you are not connected to your child emotionally. Or in any other way. I watch men in both of our families and am in awe of the example they set. All I am saying is this, in my personal experience, I cannot let go or ignore some things as well as my Mr. Man. Maybe it is just me. Part of being a parent is becoming selfless. Responsible for what God has entrusted to your care. And, whether you have toddlers or your children are grown with children of their own, a parent is always a parent. Our families are of utmost importance no matter the age. Agreed? Thought so.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize. Jacob is always on my mind. Not every second of every day. But a large portion. Every day there is a mental checklist. Responsibilities to be carried out for his well being and sometimes for ours. I am making sure he is being taken care of, he is where he is supposed to be, he is safe, he is fed, he is comfortable, he has taken his medicine, he has a sitter scheduled when needed, he goes to bed, he is well, he is…, he is…, he is…. Get my drift? It is hard to be fully present when the checklist consumes our minds. Thankfully, we have a plan in place where there are others who step in for me from time to time. I can be away and return home realizing I didn’t worry about him while I was gone. Yes, I thought about him and may have called to check in. On my mind but not consuming my thoughts.
The main lesson in Marriage 101 is put your spouse first. Before your job, before your favorite team, and even before your children. As a spouse, we hope our partner is always thinking of us. Right? We’ve seen families where the children are the center of the universe and often it isn’t pretty. What happens though when demands of that child or children require more than the usual attention? Beyond the 20 years when they hopefully set out on their own? When they are not capable of following the path of self-sufficiency? How do you find that balance of investing in your mate or yourself?
I remember early on coming to the realization that often a child with special needs is being raised by one parent. Sometimes the all-consuming nature of raising that child, sadly, can destroy a marriage. Every marriage takes work. Every marriage is hard. I’ll go out on a limb and say that every marriage that produces a disabled child has to work extra hard. If your husband or wife got to the point that they couldn’t help carry the load, share in the decisions, decided to throw in the towel, I am truly sorry. My heart hurts for you. Let others help bear the weight when you feel it heavy on your shoulders. There are also those that are single and made the conscious choice to adopt a special needs child. And, what about families where the mom or dad of the child has passed away? Hard scenarios that seem impossible. In any case, we have what it takes to ‘just do it’ when it comes to raising our child(ren). Use every resource available to help you navigate your situation.
I like what the Bible says in Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness to known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, thing about these things. Philippians 4:4-9
It isn’t normal or healthy to constantly fix your mind on your child. The mental space dedicated to them can completely take over snuffing out potential for relationships with family and friends. The emotional toll will drain and exhaust you. Yes, I’m telling you, it will. I have learned to be intentional with respite care. Plan date nights. Call girlfriends. Sign up for a class.
Take up running. (Not happening.) Reach out to others. Develop a hobby. Memorize scripture. Throw a tea party. Escape in a book. Meet friends out for dinner. Schedule a game night. Take care of yourself!
Always on My Mind is a love song we’ve heard for decades. The story of ‘well I did something stupid but you were always on my mind’. Meeting family needs is a balancing act. Give your loved ones the attention they deserve but remember to be your best, you can’t obsess. Think about these things.