Have you ever felt discouraged and sad as a parent? I’m guessing you have.
I wrote this at the end of our time on Whidbey Island. It seemed a bit whiney and maybe discouraging, so I didn’t post it. Today, I read it again and thought it may help you to know you’re not alone.
Here are my honest, slightly raw, reflections on being a parent of kids with early trauma.
Family vacation: beautiful, restful, fun, happy.
This is what I want in a vacation. The problem is, it’s not what I get, which leaves me with the question, “Can I be content when vacation doesn’t feel like a vacation?”
I go about my days with grumbling in my heart, “This is not the way it should be. This is not how vacation was with our older set of kids. I want what I had before.”
I remember days filled with imaginative play, forts built, long beach walks with conversation. Of course, there was squabbling among siblings, fussy babies, and games abandoned due to arguments over rules. It wasn’t perfect.
But having children who simply don’t want to be here, who don’t want to be with me, who refuse all offers of activities – it stinks. It really does.
My current crew is wired differently from my older kids. Trauma, abuse, and neglect impact their brains. Creative play is hindered. Complex emotions about belonging rush through their minds. Attachment to peers is easier than attachment to parents.
While the older kids were here with us, the days were filled, but once they left to return to their jobs and lives, the hours stretched before us.
It took a few days of yuck to get proactive.
We need a family adventure every day to keep us regulated. Amid complaints of torture, “We have to go where?,” we’ve been packing the car with water bottles, snacks, and disgruntled kids to explore Whidbey Island. Wandering beaches, exploring Fort Casey, and hiking at Ebey’s landing have filled our afternoons.
Each time we make it out the door, I have a moment when I realize I’m happy and content. The sun is shining, there is room to spread out, we are all breathing a little more easily.
There is also a spiritual process at work.
Years ago I read Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot and her words still resonate with me,
The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.
This pierces me. My circumstances are not going to change soon – it’s my heart that must adjust.
Yesterday as we drove to Fort Casey, I felt tears welling up and sadness wash over me. I wanted to cry and say, “This is too hard. I want an easier life. I’m tired of parenting that wears me out.”
I want life to feel better than this. We’re not in crisis, we’re just weary – and sad sometimes too.
I remember that Christ calls me to a life of service. He calls me to lay down my life, to pour myself out, to give and love.
And He promises to fill me. Only Jesus can restore and give me strength and joy for each day.
This joy needs to keep me going. And when the sweet moments come, I need to grab hold of them and run them through my mind like a favorite movie.
Christ in me, our greatest hope and comforter. We will not be shaken.
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