Holidays, Families and Breaking the Chains

Just got back from a four-day road trip that included an Easter visit with relatives in Chicago. One highlight for me was Friday night, when our immediate family got together for dinner: my husband and me, plus all four kids, our daughter-in-law and our daughter’s boyfriend. It’s so nice to have everyone together! I’m sure grateful that we had all those years of homeschooling. My memories are a comfort to me now that my adult kids live in other states and it takes planning to put us all around one table again, if only for a few hours.

If you’ve read The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling, you’re aware that I came from a pretty messed-up family. Lots of dysfunction there. In fact, when my husband and I were raising our own kids, I chose to maintain a certain distance from the chaos of my family, in an effort to keep the latest generation on an even keel.

My relatives can take the most innocent holiday plans and turn them into a fiasco, even before the holiday arrives. That happened again this year. While most of the fuss occurred before I arrived in town, and all of it happened without my participation, it did change some plans I had made.

When I tried to explain the dust-up to my kids, they didn’t get it. That’s a relief! That tells me that they’re still not used to the dysfunction, that it doesn’t make sense to them. We may not be a perfect family, but at least we don’t operate the way my birth family does.

Many years ago, I heard someone say that a person who’s been abused as a child has to “break the chains” of abuse by making sure they don’t abuse their own children. It really struck a chord with me, and it was only due to the grace of God that I was able to break those chains. I’m not a perfect parent by any means, but I do believe that God enabled me to keep from doing what my parents did. He did so by bringing people and books into my life that gave me a vision for what to do.

He’ll do that for you, too. Just ask Him! That’s what I tell the homeschooling parents I meet at conventions or who write me and ask how to break those patterns of the past, the ones you don’t want to repeat but somehow find yourself doing just the same. Ask for help. You can’t do it alone.

Why We’ve Been Celebrating

This past weekend we celebrated our son’s 16th birthday. While all of our children’s birthdays are special, his are a yearly reminder of God’s goodness in caring for him when he was a critically ill newborn. Back when he lay in his isolette with tubes taped to him and monitor leads stuck on him, we didn’t know that he would become the healthy, strong and happy young man he is today. So we celebrate!

I wish we could have known back then that he would be ok. I also wish we could have known that having a baby with disabilities is not the trauma it looks like at first.

It was 16 years ago yesterday that a doctor we’d never seen before interrupted our celebratory hospital dinner (champagne, steak, éclairs) to bluntly tell us that our son had suddenly begun having trouble breathing, his heart wasn’t working right, he would have to be transferred to a larger hospital, and oh, by the way, we think he might have Down syndrome.

Great bedside manner, that guy. It was like being hit by a ton of bricks. At first, we chose to deal with the health issues rather than the spare chromosome and what it meant, because the health issues were more pressing. But once our son began to stabilize, we had to face the fact that he was quite different from his siblings in some important and unchangeable ways.

Like most parents with a special needs child, we discovered that there’s a grief process you go through when you have a child with disabilities. You have to accept that he won’t be president, won’t be a scholar, and in the case of Down syndrome, won’t get to raise a child of his own someday.

But once you learn to stop focusing on the things he won’t do, you can begin to celebrate the things he does. You learn about them as they happen. He brings joy to your family, he works hard to master every little step of development, he teaches his siblings about love and sacrifice, and he’s used by God to strengthen your faith. I hope I don’t come across as a goody-two-shoes when I say that he is actually a great blessing. I wish we could have known that when we got his diagnosis, but at least we know it now.

He’s a lot of fun as well as an occasional source of frustration. That makes him just like his siblings. Yes, I worry about his future, especially when I read terrible things like this. But I also worry about our older children: our daughter living alone in a large city, our son traveling all over the country on business (and out of the country on mission trips), and our younger daughter, who is just reaching the age where she must make some important decisions about her future. Parenting has exponentially increased my prayer life!

And that’s a good thing. God uses parenting to grow us and to make us into the people he wants us to become. The tools he uses for this are our children, who happen to be a blessing in their own right.

That’s just one reason why their birthdays are so special. In the case of our youngest, we also celebrate the fact that he’s made it through so many challenges and is still here with us. For that, we are grateful!

Still in Charge

I’ve been fascinated by the housing bubble for several years now. As a result, I’ve read many articles about people who used their home equity lines as credit cards, bought all sorts of goodies, trips, cruises, etc. and are now faced with foreclosure because their home values plummeted and they owe way more than their homes are worth. Reading all that stuff can make you feel pretty jaded.

And then I read this foreclosure story. A couple was making lots of money and had all the goodies. But their marriage was falling apart. Then she had a cancer scare and surgery. He had a heart attack. As a result, they burned through their savings. When the economy went south, they lost their house.

Where do you think they are now? You’ll have to read the story to find out. God’s hand is all over it. I’m pleasantly surprised that a secular newspaper published this story the way it’s written, because God gets credit for once. A good reminder that, in the midst of all this economic turmoil, He’s still in charge.

His Mom is an Angel

I was pretty fortunate. I fell in love with my son from the time I learned he had been conceived, and when I found out (eighteen hours after his birth) that he had Down syndrome, I loved him even more. But it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

One mom I knew felt she couldn’t cope with raising a child with Ds, and wanted to give her new baby up for adoption. But her husband refused, saying there was no way he was giving up his first son (there were already two daughters). That family has thrived since then, more than ten years ago….Mom just had a case of fear of the unknown, I think.

But then there is this gal, who blames a lack of support from her family and friends for her reluctance to raise her baby with Down syndrome. But as I’ve written before, God looks out for his precious ones. In this case, He sent an angel named Alex Bell.

I love this true story. You will too 🙂