When our kids are hurting and other stuff ….Vol 64
I’m married to a wonderful gal. We celebrated our one year anniversary last week amidst sniffles and a lot of coughing. Thankfully Kathy is on her way back to health and so far I haven’t come down with anything…yet.
One of the things that is unique about our relationship is that we both have had painful losses that have re-written our lives….and that we are able to talk about it with each other. You might say “well of course you talk about it…you should be able to talk about anything as a married couple” That’s true…but there is a vast difference in a conversation where there is true empathy and not just sympathy. Where the perspective of a shared life experience opens channels between the two of you that could never be opened any other way.
Kathy lost her oldest child, Ross almost 4 years ago. Not long after that she lost her dad. I lost Lori, my wife of nearly 19 years about 3 and a half years ago…5 months later Lori’s dad took his life in despair over losing his daughter. Each of these losses not only affected us individually but affected our kids as well…and our relationship with our kids.
Over these last years coping with our own grief and trying to understand and love our kids through their grief has been a challenge. Sometimes we have handled it well…most times we haven’t known how to give our kids what they needed to get through it…because frankly the pain never ends. There is always something that happens, some reminder, some life event that tears off the scab and we start bleeding all over again. I don’t know how those without the Lord and a solid church family do it. I couldn’t.
There is a special switch inside us that gets flipped “on” once you have kids. And once that switch is flipped…it never gets un-flipped. Once a parent…always a parent.
We take on new sensitivities as parents. New hopes, new joys…and new hurts.
My kids and Kathy’s kids have had some big hurts over huge losses. But our kids hurt and struggle over more that just the big things. They can be lonely…scared…lack confidence…lack direction…even in the best of times…even in the best of families… even in families who love and serve the Lord.
When we see present hurts and can look forward to some of the hurts that are coming…how do we minister to them so that they can not only hear us…but listen to us? I don’t know about you…but Kathy and I are still trying to get that right with God’s help. I can tell you for certain that it requires a lot of prayer all along the way…at a minimum.
What if there is no clear reason your child is hurting?
When we can see the reason for the pain or struggle our course of action is usually pretty clear. Put a band-aid on a cut. Bring them to a Doctor for a broken bone. Make them chicken soup for the flu. What if the hurt is deeper? What if our kids can’t explain it? Or are too ashamed to try?
Since I have been a young man I’ve struggled with anxiety. I don’t mean the kind of anxiety where you have a few butterflies or maybe end up fretting over something…but rather the “I can’t breathe…I’m gonna explode if I don’t get outta here” kind. At times, the kind of anxiety where you beg God to take it away or take you home. To date my kids haven’t suffered with any of that…and I pray with all my heart they never do.
I guess my point is that even in times of hurt when the cause is unknown…the remedy isn’t. There is always a “God” component. We can always, and should always pray. Not just when a problem exists…but proactively pray. As the old hymn says “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer” Think about it. It is our only conscious means of communicating to and with our heavenly Father (who has all the answers) yet sometimes it is our last resort. I know that my parents and friends have bathed me in prayer in my worst times…and now Kathy and I bathe our kids and friends and friends’ kids in prayer. Seeking wisdom, understanding, comfort and relief. Praying that God would be glorified even in the midst of incredibly difficult times as we walk through these challenges with our kids, loved ones and friends.
I have never learned this next concept well…Kathy has. Talk to your kids. Kathy has a way of connecting that baffles me. I am amazed (and sometimes startled a little..) by what the kids share with her.
I start out well intended. I intend to talk with them and always end up talking at them.
I fancy myself a pretty good communicator to adults. I’m reasonably articulate and not afraid to get up in front of any size crowd. But in real life, I’m horrible with my own kids. My best attempts always come off as an exercise in 50 questions, where I do all the talking and they simply turn me off or shut down. Kathy can engage them. I think it’s a gift…and I’m trying to learn from her. I think she’s rubbing off on me. In this last year my relationships with each child has gotten better, deeper, stronger. At least I think so…you’d probably have to ask them…or maybe their friends…or read it on Facebook…:)
Here’s the bottom line as I see it.
Just as our own lives ebb and flow based on our relationship with our Heavenly Father so goes our relationship with our kids. It is an active, all hands on deck “on purpose” living , breathing thing. It is challenging hard work, with amazing highs and lows mixed with moments of terror. It has us scratching our heads a good bit and down on our knees a good bit more.
Kathy and I don’t have it right yet…maybe we never will. But it is worth every bit of energy, effort, love and devotion we can muster.
Perhaps our kids will be better parents one day because they listened a little, trusted the Lord a lot and never gave up on their kids.
That is our heart’s prayer. That is our heartsong.
Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4