balancing the impossible…

Balancing the Impossible

Recently, I had someone remark about how crazy our lives are right now and how we keep it all from going crazy. I had not stopped to think about it before, so I stopped and spent some time looking at our family. Since our fourth child, Timothy, was born in January, our family has had to readjust and redefine what is “normal” for us. Since he was born two months premature and with Down Syndrome, Timmy has faced a long, tough struggle to grow as a baby and that has really impacted all of the rest of us in the family. But as I have looked back on the last year, I really see that our “family balancing” has been possible thanks to three major things: patience, participation, and planning.

Patience
With our son Timothy, all of the rules have changed in terms of how he will progress and how our family will operate, especially as compared to how his sister and brothers developed. His prematurity continues to have an impact on how he develops because he simply is smaller and weaker than other babies his age. But is Down Syndrome has completely rewritten the rule book because it affects his physical and mental development but it also has no rules to follow. Each DS child is different, so each has their own path to follow and timelines to meet. As a result, we have had to throw away “what the other kids did” and have to be patient and let things come, sometimes literally one day at a time. This has been really hard for me because Abbie, Zach & JT all progressed really well, so it was easy to compare them to other kids their age and see how we were doing. But with Timmy, comparing him to other 12 month olds only leads to discouragement and frustration. And if I look ahead, most likely that will be the reality for his entire life. Timothy will have some areas that he will thrive and excel in, while he will struggle and fail in others. So I need to take him for who he is, where he is and however he progresses. But isn’t that what we need to do for ALL of our kiddos?

Participation
Timothy has at least two appointments every week, for things like learning how to eat to physical therapy to help him build up strength to sit up and eventually walk someday. Our family has had to adjust to the fact that either Mom or Dad will need to take him to those appointments and that means the other parent is flying solo with the remaining family members. As a result, the “solo” parent has their hands full, and sometimes it is too much for one person to handle. So, our other children have had to get involved in our daily family operations and “carry some weight.” No, we are not into child labor and do not work them to death, but we have started asking more from Abbie, Zach & JT, and the results have been awesome. One, we have been able to distribute some of the smaller tasks that come up daily (setting and cleaning dinner table, picking up living room, etc) or weekly (cleaning, organizing, etc). Two, we have been thrilled to see our kids (especially the oldest two) step up and become more responsible. At first, it was a real fight because we had allowed our kids to coast through without helping much. But now they are asking us how they can help, and are jumping into help in other areas. For example, Abbie now accompanies me on our weekly grocery shopping trips and is helping to figure out the best deals and keep track of how much we are spending and what we will be making for meals that week. Meanwhile, Zach has been jumping in to help me with more of the house tasks, like fixing things and scheduling maintenance on vehicles. And having their help everyday has made a huge difference, not only in taking some work off Treshia & my hands, but also by helping them to become more responsible and mature. In hindsight, I wish we had gotten them this involved before Timmy was born.

Planning
This is probably the single most important aspect of our family balance and how we have made it through this year with JOY. If I am honest, in the past, Treshia & I tended to let things just happen and would react to them. Our finances were taken on a daily basis and money crisis’ were a very common occurrence. We would not plan times away as a couple or a family, but then would panic when we got to the point where we were completely spent and had nothing left in the emotional or physical tanks. And our house was a complete disaster, with things strewn everywhere without a place or rhyme or reason. And as a result, we lost things a lot and lived in an almost constant state of discouragement with our messy home. But with the arrival of Timothy, and all of the extra roles and details he brought with him, all of this has begun to change. About six months ago, as Treshia & I were almost in tears over feelings of discouragement and failure, we realized that we HAD TO make a change and start planning more. The first step was the most basic one, but one that I fear a lot of couples like us miss….couple communication. Treshia & I started talking openly and honestly about what we loved doing in the home, what we hated, what energized us about our family & home and what drained us. And as we started talking, we realized that we had assumed some roles that were better for the other person. For example, I love to shop for groceries and planning on weekly meals. It is a role that is commonly seen as “the woman’s role” in the world today, but was also a role that drained Treshia and led to discouragement. So, I took on the role and have loved it. We also realized that we needed to remove some things from our crazy lives, which meant spending less time with some people, cutting a lot of outside actitivites and becoming much more intentional with where we spend our time. We were forced to look at all of our relationships and cut those that were negative or draining. We had to cut some outside activities that were good, but not great for our family. And we have become much more intentional about reaching out to those who we want closest and who were are called to bless and minister. Those decisions can come with some difficulty too, as it is easy to feel guilty when you intentionally cut someone, or something, from your life. But they are critical to save your family reserves and keep you focused on what is most important.

We also realized that we had to become MUCH more organized, especially living in a 1100 sq foot home. So, we started investing our time and money into making our home much better planned and organized. Now everything has its place and goes back there when it is finished. It is amazing how much more energy we have now that we are not constantly walking through a minefield of toys, clothes and stuff! We also took a much more active role in planning our family time together every week. We did this by PLANNING to spend breakfasts and dinners together as a family and having at least two nights a week where the TV and technology is off and we sit and read together. This can be hard sometimes, because many evenings all I want to do is vegetate in front of the TV and turn my brain off, but instead I have to engage my children. But when I do, I find that they are more obedient and engaged in our week. But all of these things took very intentional planning on Treshia & my part. Again, in hindsight, I wish I could have learned this lesson early in my marriage because it would have saved us many years of frustration and heartache.

Has it been easy? Heavens no! 2014 was easily THE most difficult and exhausting year of my life. But, I can also say with complete honesty that it has been the most amazing and thrilling year of our marriage and my life. I have grown personally in ways that I NEVER would have without the trials. Our family has become a very different one that is more united and focused than ever before. In so many ways, it may have been “easier” to simply keep going the way we were, reacting to life as it came and living in a state of panic or emergency. But by very intentionally slowing things down, planning things out and changing the direction of our family, I truly can say that I believe we are a sweet aroma to our Lord. And I cannot ask anything more.

(This post was originally posted on the Dad Matters blog page)

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~ by kuiperactive on February 14, 2015.

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