Three of my children had a great time. Can you guess which one did not? Would not walk. Would not climb. Would not do anything but stand mostly in one spot and cry, wanting to be held.
This is a child who can barely sit still at home or anywhere else (e.g. the library). He is in constant motion, walking from room to room, climbing off and on the furniture. So you'd think a park would be good for the sensory input he seems to crave, right?
He's been with us almost 14 months now. Sometimes that seems like an eternity, and other times (like today) I am extremely aware of what a superficial dent we have made in the mountain of Shu's anxiety. I want so much to be able to take all of my children on typical, kid-friendly outings and have all of them enjoy! I'm not talking a raucous carnival; I'm talking a quiet, empty park. Or a casual stroll around our neighborhood.
I honestly have no clue what provokes such anxiety on these occasions. A physical problem, perhaps, that causes him to feel fearful and unsteady the entire time? (He continues to have trouble climbing stairs, and his physical therapist thinks he could benefit from orthotics for his feet.) Except that we've gone to other parks on other days when he climbed and played happily, no problem. The unfamiliarity of the park? But he is totally fine in other new situations...has even surprised me at times with his independence! It's puzzling. And more than a little frustrating.
Forgive my little pity party today. Dr. Husband jokes that I should stop being so shocked (shocked!) by Shu's random outbursts of fear or anxiety. And yeah, after 14 months, I guess he's right. I just wish it didn't put such a damper on our outings, e.g. Fourth of July where Shu freaked out at the tame driveway fireworks and ended up in the van, inconsolable. Wish that one child's possible/probable anxiety/misery didn't make me so skittish that I want to hunker down and never take him anywhere. 'Cause that's just not workable with three other children, not to mention two parents, who kind of enjoy leaving the house from time to time, you know? Silly, stubborn woman that I am, I just keep taking the risk.
That's the ongoing struggle. Managing the needs of one child while juggling the needs of the rest. Sometimes those needs are going to contradict each other, and sometimes the well-being of the whole family takes priority over the demands of one kiddo whose full emotional healing, I'm learning, does not hinge solely on my perfect reaction in every specific circumstance. Whew. That's a burden too great for me, and I am not parenting an only child. Overall I know that's best for Shu--to be around three (soon four) happy, well-adjusted siblings engaging with their environment, and to continue to be exposed to situations in which he can eventually learn that there is no need for fear or that he doesn't need to be literally held in my arms in order to sense that my love and protection are only a few feet away.
So we plod on, trying not to be so devastated by the meltdowns, with eyes wide open to celebrate the many occasions that go better than expected. We acknowledge that we all continue to sacrifice. Shu said goodbye to the "security" of a very narrow and predictable orphanage life for a much bigger, broader world that on many days still does not feel safer or better to him. And the rest of us forego any guarantee of peaceful family outings to the park or Home Depot or the pool, tantrum-free dinners or movie nights, etc. while flinging much grander plans like family vacations far, far into the unforeseeable future.
My inclination is to feel lousy about even viewing our current lifestyle as "sacrificial." I mean, I'm not living in a dirt-floored shack in a third world country. I watch TV. I have clean water, good food, and my A/C works, thank God. Adoption took a big bite out of our bank account, but it's since been replenished, especially now that the adoption tax credit has finally come our way. I don't even have that many kids.
But I rather think that the Father is well aware of and well pleased with what we give up to know Him more deeply, partnering with Him in laying our lives down to love in a way that does not come instantly, or naturally, or without great effort. Comparing is irrelevant, anyway. The cost of following God calculates differently for each of us, and He alone knows what it will be.
Elisabeth Elliot, in one of her Gateway to Joy broadcasts talks about an old hymn written in the 1800's by a man named John Keble. "The trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask; room to deny ourselves, a road to bring us daily nearer God."
Some of you, my faithful listeners, are working right now as you listen. The man in the carpenter shop. The combine. The UPS driver. The woman in the kitchen, the laundry, the bedroom, the bathroom. Is your mind set to hallow what you find? In other words, to make it holy, to make it an offering to Jesus Christ? If it is, then you will find treasures--material for sacrifice. The trivial round. Let's say you're peeling onions for the soup. How many times have you peeled onions before? Same old onions. Same tears shed. Same necessity of feeding your family. But this is one of the givens of your life. I love to think about the givens and the not-givens. Many things you long for which have not been given. But this trivial round of three meals a day--how many loads of laundry, how many bathrooms to clean, how many rugs to vacuum--"the trivial round, the common task, will furnish all we ought to ask." One of the things that it furnishes is room to deny ourselves--the opportunity day by day, for the love of God, to give up our right to ourselves, to glorify God in the way that we do the humblest work.Parenting these kids, all of them, is my "given." Whether happy day or crappy day, it's what I signed up for, unknowns and tears and apraxia and all. If He can see this mess and hard work of restoration (and all the other regular parenting stuff) as treasure, worthy of sacrifice, I can only pray He'll give me vision and joy to see it the same way.