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Are your children a blessing or a burden?
When I drop my kids off with someone to be watched or for them to spend the night, I tell them “be a blessing, not a burden.” I don’t want my children to behave in a way that makes the person keeping them feel overwhelmed or distressed in any way that my kids are in their care. Let’s be honest, I may need these people again in the future, so I don’t want them hiding in the background when I’m looking for help.
As I woke one morning and opened my eyes to an adorable toddler peacefully sleeping near me with her hands tucked under her chin looking like a posed doll, my thoughts went immediately to how blessed I am. This treasure is so much fun to have around and I just soak her up whenever I can.
She is the easy blessing
It is easy to have feelings of overwhelming gratitude for my sweet toddler. Though she has many challenges, they are “easier” than the ones facing my other children. She has feeding, speech, dietary and attachment issues. This child gets whiny because she can’t communicate her needs and is a snuggle bug needing her “people” around her for comfort. But overall, she is much easier to handle than the rest, which makes it easier to feel blessed.
The story of how my toddler came to me is full of fear and learning again to trust the Lord and His timing. As with my other adopted children, I had to fully allow God to be in control of her future. She was our healing gift after some destructive behavior by my former spouse that left my children wounded. This child came at just the right moment and captured our hearts with a passion. So, feeling blessed to be her mom is like breathing.
The arrival of the other kids was just as much a blessing
My other three adopted children were brought to me in a very similar manner as my toddler. Each of them had a long foster story that included me pleading with the Lord to allow me to be their Mama. Their stories were fraught with ups and downs, fears and joys. On their adoption day, I welled up with tears; overwhelmed with happiness that they were finally my blessings. The burden of wondering if they would be taken from me was finally over.
My older children, two in particular, are burdened with some pretty intense struggles. The world is a daily emotional challenge for them to overcome. To say each day is an uphill climb, is definitely an understatement.
Why do I forget to see them as a blessing?
Dealing with children who have special challenges is more stress than anyone on the outside could ever understand. Stress is part of my personality! Without it, I don’t even recognize myself or know how to deal with my own emotions. It is just always there. Through the stress I often find that I’m forgetting how blessed I am. My adopted children were chosen for me in a way that I had no say. Birthing my two older biological children was something I planned. For sure, God chose their future and allowed their existence, but I did have a little something to do with their arrival.
Fostering children is a whole different scenario. There was not a list of kids to pick from and decide I would parent. Literally, these kids are placed quite random. DCS has a list of the homes with empty beds and the age ranges that could be put in that home. Then they start making calls from that list. It is totally up to the Lord who gets what blessings.
Knowing that God chose me specifically for these children should overwhelm me with peace and pleasure. Wow, the God of the universe chose me out of all the other thespians on the planet to raise His children to love and honor Him. So why do I keep forgetting? Why do I get so wrapped up in just getting through each challenge that I miss the bigger picture? The answer; because we all do.
We all forget to feel blessed rather than burdened
Several of my friends have like a bazillion kids; at least half a dozen but I stopped counting. One friend is always posting #blessedbeyondmeasure on her Facebook posts. Let’s be real here. She can’t possibly be sitting there with 6 or more kids, the majority being boys, and feel that overwhelming gratitude every single day. Of course she isn’t. BUT, what she IS doing is putting her burdens aside on a regular basis and allowing herself to feel blessed.
If taking pictures and posting them on social media help this mama to remember her blessings, then she deserves a gold star. She is being purposeful in aligning her attitude.
Be blessed on purpose!
Having challenging children is burdensome. There are days when you just can’t handle the mess they made in the kitchen that you just cleaned up for the twentieth time today. As much as you try to get them to get along, the burden of their emotional challenges takes over in the form of stress and anger. In those moments, it is nearly impossible to feel blessed. However, there are moments you can find surrounding that bad moment, where you can adjust that attitude. There are strategies you can use to allow yourself to feel more blessed, less burdened which in turn will allow you to parent in a more positive manner.
Strategies for feeling blessed instead of burdened.
Start or end each day writing down your blessings-keep a daily list of what blessed you that day.
Before cleaning up a mess, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the challenges facing the child or children that made the mess and how you can help them overcome rather than yelling at them in anger.
Pace yourself with your list of “to dos” as they often intensify the “feeling of burden”. When you can see the list and set your mind on tackling one thing at a time, that often helps your emotions.
Hug your children! The emotions that surge through the two of you will help you both feel more connected.
Make time for yourself even if it is just a five-minute break in your closet enjoying your dark chocolate. Soak in that moment without allowing yourself to think about any “to dos” or “what ifs”. Just step back.
Take a picture of them when everyone is peaceful and use that to remind yourself how blessed you truly are to be chosen as their parent.
Make special times with your children that are unscheduled, unplanned, void of expectations. You can make a sudden turn into a park for a few minutes of unscheduled playtime with no burden of what to expect. Though this can be a challenge for some kids, figure out a way to do something low key that does not require stress. For some, this may be piling up the books and reading for an hour.
Play with your kids! I guarantee your kids would rather you pop in a frozen pot pie and play with them than fix them an elaborate meal while they play in their room.
Put up verses or phrases on post-it notes or index cards that help you refocus. Change them often or rotate between a few so they don’t just become part of your interior design.
Plan “stay home” days where you can clear your calendar and make special time to reset yourself and your children from the burden of busyness. Having one sacred day where nothing can be scheduled is a way to tackle that overwhelming feeling that often burdens your mind and prevents you from seeing your blessings.
Take goofy pictures together. There is nothing like acting like a total goofball in front of the camera. Seeing your children’s smiles will be a great reminder of how fun it can be to be a parent. They will feel at ease seeing you relaxing and having fun.
Be realistic with your expectations of your children. Remind yourself that their brain/emotions are still growing until they are like 30. Don’t put the burden of perfecting a job you have taught on a child. It will take them numerous attempts to get it right and even longer for them to actually have the emotional capacity to care about doing it right.
“Love them Like Jesus”. That is a saying in my house when we are faced with the burden of treating someone nicely after they have been unlovable. Remind your children regularly how much God loves them even when they mess up, so that they can understand the gravity of that love for others.
Take deep breaths before confronting them on their behavior or messes. Count if you need. That age old advice still has merit.
Write verses or phrases on your hands. There are times when my hand is full of words that are meant for me. Likely, others think I’ve got a shopping list on my paw, but I am not concerned with their opinions. My job is to keep myself in line and sometimes that requires a visual reminder.
When the burden is too heavy, get on your knees and in the Word! It will be heavy, and it will seem unbearable, but you will get through it.