Caring for caregivers
He aided Aaron to hold up the hands of Moses when Moses realized that the Israelites prevailed in battle while his hands were raised: "Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side.
Rest is important. God gave us the Sabbath and commanded that it be a day of rest. Jesus rested. He knew the importance of getting away from the business and drain of ministry. Sometimes, He would gather with His disciples, and sometimes, He would slip away by Himself to commune with the Father. If God rested, we can’t get around doing the same.
So, what happens when we’re drowning? When there’s no one to throw out a lifeline? When we are tired, overwhelmed, and have no idea how we will keep it together for one more minute? When we are in the trenches of sacrifice, but there’s nothing left to sacrifice?
All parents have those moments, and most parents have the luxury of picking up the phone and calling a babysitter. They should. They should pull away from family life and take time to regroup and refresh. Everyone benefits from a mom who’s had a time of renewal. Everyone benefits from two parents who have a connected marriage.
Then, there are the parents of special needs children. Adopted children are by nature special needs, if not physically and mentally, emotionally. No one gets to lose birth parents and walk away unscathed. I’m convinced it’s the largest trauma that any little person can experience, and it takes parents who are willing to educate themselves and put themselves in the throes of complete heartbreak to help to begin to put the broken pieces back together.
Resting means depending on a handful of close relatives and friends who understand the unique needs of our children. Calling a teenager from down the block isn’t an option. Caretakers have to understand that our children are impulsive, prone to meltdowns, crazy insecure, terrified of being left alone, need a strict schedule, can’t have too much TV time, will manipulate in a fantastic way, take medicines, and misbehave because that’s their go-to when mom and dad have left and rocked their world. If we’re lucky, we won’t come back to a war zone and a sitter who’s been hogtied and laid out in the middle of the living room floor. Best case scenario, she survives and never, again, answers our phone calls.
Those few people in our circle who get it are just that—few. They get tired, too.
As the Body of Christ, we can be a support to the parents that are doing the impossible work of raising beautiful, broken children. We can offer respite care—rest—when no one else is standing in line to help. Yes. It’s scary. Yes. More than likely, you’ll be glad when you can hand them back over to their parents, but it’s what the Church does. We care for and support the hands and feet of Jesus.
We must see the need and be brave enough to be intentional in our ability to offer rest.
We can educate one another. Learning builds understanding and compassion. It gives us the confidence to step in and bear the weight of care taking in a way that works for parents and the babies they’re leaving in our care. Understanding therapeutic parenting is a great starting point.
If you’re lucky enough to have an adoptive family in your circle of family and friends, ask questions. How can I help? Could you tell me about your day? How can I better understand your children? What would I need to know to care for your children? Can you give me some pointers for loving on your little ones?
The key is to listen and implement the tools that parents give. Sometimes, the tools don’t make sense. Ask the why questions. Asking why helps to get a glimpse into the logic of parenting adopted kids, or should I say getting a glimpse into the illogical?
We want you to ask. We desperately want others to understand our children. We want a well-informed, empathetic hand. We want people in our corner that we are confident will help, not hinder, our children, and yes, sometimes, we want to be able to rest like any other parent and not worry about the disaster that is ensuing at home.
Not everyone will adopt. I’m inclined to believe that if you don’t have any drawl toward adoption than you shouldn’t do it. It’s a lifetime commitment with no guarantee of a favorable outcome. It can only be done through the power of Jesus Christ. A desire to be all-in is the least a person should have in order to enter a permanent relationship with another living being, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw out a lifeline every now and then. It doesn't mean we are exempt from carrying for orphans (and their families).
Church, we need you. We need for you to see us. We need a cheerleader. We need to be loved on.
We need for you to come up beside of us,
Take hold of our Moses arms,
And hold them up.
Because, it’s what He requires.
Because, we’re in this thing together.
(C) 2017 Victoria Paxton
Want to understand more about parenting children with a traumatic background? These resources are a great start.
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Victoria Paxton spends her mornings teaching special education and her afternoons raising two fantastic sons. She's the wife of Mr. Paxton, and, also, the mother of a grown, full of faith daughter who is married to Victoria's favorite son-in-law, Nathan.