We did it again. Another trip to grandparent’s house for the summer. Me and 4 kids on a long plane ride. As expected, it was not without incident. The return flight is always more laden with anxiety, exhaustion and nothing to look forward to so any ability we had to hold it together, is now gone. The kids ran off the plane before me as I struggled with the carry-on luggage. Immediately upon walking through the gate at our layover city, a stranger approached me and informed me she had just pulled one child off of the other. I replied with a quick, “thanks” and I tried to avoid eye contact with the hundreds of gawkers as our multi-racial family walked on (as if nothing happened) and made our way to the next gate.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It’s that I just couldn’t. I was by myself and had to get home. The trip was far from over.
Adoptive and foster parents have needs that are unseen a lot of times. Our kids look “normal.” They can even act “normal” or similar to typical children who have had a rough day. All kids do act out in some form. However, the difference between typical kids and kids who struggle is the INTENSITY and the CHRONIC nature of the behavior. Sure typical parents experience tantrums. But they don’t experience tantrums from their child for multiple hours, everyday. This makes our needs as a family unique and magnified.
“What do you need the most?” I was recently asked. It showed they knew I needed a lot but wanted to tackle the biggest and most pressing in that moment. We don’t hear it much because the asker’s hands will have to get dirty with this one. Too risky.
But hands don’t always have to get dirty. Not physically anyway. If I’m really honest with myself and others, what I really need most is something much harder to give. Especially in an airport.
If I’m really honest with myself and others, what I really need most is something much harder to give.
What I wanted to do in that moment but couldn’t, was hold my face in my hands and sob. Because instead of the stares and the “helpful parenting advice” I receive, or the comments about how “typical children act this way sometimes too,” my greatest need was to feel the never-ending, warm embrace of GRACE.
It’s so simple and yet profoundly complex.
What makes it complex is that people are usually willing to give grace when they are not affected. “Sure, I forgive you for the blood curdling screaming I heard from your kid yesterday OUTSIDE. Kids are kids.” But when your kid is constantly kicking the back of my chair on an airplane, well, that’s another story.
Or sure they’ll forgive my kid’s misbehavior in the classroom…until my kid hurts their kid at recess. We offend some people so often, there’s no way we can make up for it. So we expect you to not like us. I expect you to not want your kids to be friends with mine.
What most don’t understand about behavior of any kind, is that there is an unmet need somewhere in the body. They’ve missed out on a lot because of trauma and are trying to figure life out in the best way they know how. They need help with life skills that come natural for most kids. They need extra help at school. They need extra-special babysitters. They need extra time to do most things. They need extra play time. They need extra structure and they need more nurturing for much longer than typical kids. And that is just a lot, and so messy.
Then there’s me. I’m late a lot. I don’t always show up. If I do, sometimes the look on my face tells the story of the last 2 hours attempting to get to that place. I’m usually too exasperated to hide it. Sometimes I’m unavailable to the people of wherever I’ve shown up to. Some days I lose it on my kids. I’m trauma trained, and all the things I beg and plead with all the teachers to do with my kids, I don’t do myself on a regular basis. I know others observe that. “She’s too passionate.” “Too many kids.” “She’s taken on too much.” I’m just too much for people.
What I have found in my pondering of my greatest need is that this thing we need most, is the thing that God has destined upon us from the beginning of time. He knew we needed grace. And the thing He used as the gift bearer was His son who was hurt in the process.
We may not ever receive the grace we desire from strangers, our extended family, our neighbors or our kid’s teachers. At least not consistently. But there is One who gives this perfect grace to messy parents and misbehaved kids. And it doesn’t end just because we’re too much for Him.
We offend. He forgives. Over and over again. That’s grace.
Grace is there for you. Rest in that, parents. Grace is there for your child too. No matter how many tantrums. No matter how many times your child is arrested. No matter how many times you fail your child, there is perfect grace. The beauty in this ultimate need and gift of grace is only had when received. Embrace it and know you are never too much of anything.
How have you seen grace pour out on your journey? How have you received grace?