There is hope — there are others on this road.
My friend John and I will often text back and forth in the middle of the day. We’ll text about vacation plans, getting our families together, our kids having sleepovers, the comical thing the DJ said on the morning radio show and, most importantly, life’s frustrations.
The other day John’s text reminded me just how powerful it is to find out you’re not alone. You see, our families are very much the same. Both of us are adoptive parents, both of us have been foster parents, and both of us have children with special needs. We are walking the same road, our children struggle with the same things, and so we deal with the same weariness and stress as parents.
Two of his children and two of mine are homeschooled. We each have a child who pushes the limits, and our patience, to the furthest place possible. It has almost pushed our wives over the edge. But we are also both raising children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). On a daily basis we, along with our wives, are exhausted and defeated.
I shared the homeschooling frustration with John, among other things, and I was embarrassed. I shouldn’t have been though. His text back filled me with strength.
“No man. We are in this together. Homeschooling can be hard on our wives.”
You may not see the big deal in a text like that. After all, it’s just the typical life of a tween, right? Slacks off at school work, a little bit lazy, not completely dialed in to what it means to have integrity. It’s all par for the course.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just a normal thing and I’m overreacting. Maybe we shouldn’t allow this to frustrate us like it does. But when this plays out day after day, my wife has repeated herself 4 million times, and we tie that to the constant work of raising children with special needs (one with severe behavior issues), we’ve got a recipe for exhaustion. Add in the extra fears we face as adoptive parents, the trauma some of our children live with from their difficult pasts, the battle we fight to protect our children, and we’re running on emotional fumes. It can be an extremely lonely and painful road.
All of this might help. But all of this comes up short from one thing: hope.
At the end of the day, the author of the book is not in our home. The specialist leaves her office, gets in her car, and drives to her house, not mine. The psychologist shuts his computer down and sets his sights on tomorrow’s clients. They’re all helpful, but they fall short of hopeful.
It’s not their fault. I’m not blaming them for anything, that’s just the way it goes. It’s par for the course, and it can leave you feeling pretty desperate. But to find out someone else — someone real, with flesh and blood and a heartbeat like yours — deals with the same struggles, has the same fear, and walks the same road with their child as you walk with yours? That’s hopeful. That’s healing! And then to hear those golden words, “You are not alone!” Ah, there’s something refreshing in every syllable.
Think about this in terms of our individual lives. We have a dark secret, an addiction, a struggle, or a disorder that we hold close and never let anyone find out about. Why? Well, for starters, we’re afraid of judgment, ridicule, and shame. We fear the haughty glares from the eyes of those who think they’re better. So we hold our dark secret close so no one can sling flaming arrows at us. It might make for an easier day, but it’s incredibly lonely.
Then we sit across the table from someone who shares their deepest, darkest secret with us. In their words we find hope, because in their words we hear the same dark thing we deal with. We find out we’re not alone. There’s healing in finding this out.
The other day my wife had a conversation with an acquaintance who opened up about her son’s stay in a psychiatric wing of a local hospital. As my wife listened to her, she identified. Our son has stayed in the same unit in the past. We’ve walked through the trauma of a child who’s completely out of control, violent, and destructive. My wife knew each tear dripping from her eyes.
While she couldn’t offer any solutions, she could say from her heart, “You are not alone!”
That’s the hope I can offer to you who feels defeated: You are not alone. Four simple words that can bring healing in ways a self-help book or class might not be able to. I’ve been through hell and back with my children and I’m still alive. I know what it’s like to feel lonely and trapped, but there is hope. There are others on this road.
Always remember: you are not alone.
This article originally appeared on Babble. For more like this on Babble, try:
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