Saturday, July 12, 2014

I Take Back What I Said About Mother's Day...or The Disappearing Summers

Recently I read and reviewed a book that may be made into a movie soon called Just 18 Summers. It was about a concept I'd been pondering a lot lately: that we have a limited amount of time with our kids to teach them, to make memories, to prepare them for life. That's been hitting home to me because my oldest will be 14 and entering her last year of middle school in the fall. My time with her is waning. And her sister is only a year behind her. I struggle with the constant battle of wanting to seize and savor every moment yet being tired from the constant pull of every day life in contrast to the bleak job of every parent: to make themselves obsolete so their kids can enter adult life independent and prepared.

I've always been big on summer fun. Since my oldest started kindergarten, I looked at summers as a way to spend time together and make memories she'd carry with her for a lifetime. And summers from school are a poignant reminder of the clock ticking. When they are preschoolers, each day rolls into the next day and before you know it, a year has passed, then two. But once they go off to school and summer comes, you know you have 3 months (or less) to have fun, make memories, take vacations, teach them things they can't learn in school and just enjoy them.

In recent days/years, I've been guilty of counting down til school starts back. I'm tired. My son has special needs and requires a huge amount of attention. And because I've been so diligent about trying to make all things equal between my kids, the girls expect equal attention and I get overloaded.

Last summer, I'd planned to get back to my usual summer fun and planned out some activities, made a calendar of events, etc.  But then I had surgery and recovery was harder than I expected. We did go camping in Branson and had fun but I wanted more.

The last post I published on this blog (I've written a couple of others, especially explaining our life right now, just haven't hit that "publish" button yet) was about wanting to boycott Mother's Day because I felt disrespected by my children and didn't want fake, expected tokens. I can assure you I was forced to eat my words later. I think the day after I wrote that blog, my son's therapist recommended long-term residential treatment. The guilt for what I'd written about Mother's Day was nearly as bad as the pain of the idea of sending my 9-year-old off to the care of strangers. To say I was inconsolable is an understatement. The series of events that have followed have left us broken. Financial difficulty, difficult decisions, two short-term hospitalizations for my son, my daughter struggling with inner demons as well as high blood pressure we can't get control of, custody court battle, and job chaos, just to name a few. The list doesn't do justice to the amount of turmoil it represents.

I had high hopes for this summer. My girls were in summer school to get ahead and prepare for advanced classes that would give them high school credit in middle school. They also went to camp. But, in the 6 remaining weeks of summer, I had plans, lists, calendars, and even a Pinterest board. Let the fun begin! Memories and life lessons!

But, I hurt my back. My son injured my back a couple of months ago but I somehow re-injured it so that it became excruciating. Top three on my pain repertoire. 8.0 on the Richter scale. So, my mobility was severely limited. The past couple of weeks, I've been going to doctor/chiropractor appointments, taking meds that knock me out, and laid up in bed. But, now that it's starting to get better, I've been chomping at the bit to get out and do some activities! My daughter even has a Pinterest board called her "summer bucket list."

Yesterday, though, my summer was sucked away in an instant. Without going into too much detail, what I thought would be a routine pre-trial court hearing that my lawyer said I didn't have to attend turned out to have massive effects. With the exception of our already scheduled vacation, the kids will spend the rest of the summer with their dad. I won't even go into how my lawyer didn't bother to tell me, I had to hear about it in a text from their dad the day before they are supposed to go or that she won't call me back to explain what happened or some of the other nonsense this included. Or that this was sprung on me last minute and I have to scramble to get them ready or that they have appointments scheduled that dad will likely skip. Or that the kids don't like this at all (but no one seemed to care or even ask) or that Billy will miss meet the teacher night at his new school or Arrena will miss volleyball meetings or Kimberly will miss another month of karate (after missing a month when she injured her foot).  Our summer just kicked the bucket. Except for our vacation window, one more summer down.

I bawled yesterday at this news for a lot of reasons I won't list here. I know all the pat answers and cliches, that God has a plan. But my heart still hurts. I'm mom and I should be able to fix things. But I'm powerless and impotent.  And even worse than that, even though I know God is in control, I need direction.  I need answers on what to do now.  What is the correct response?  How can I tell what the right decisions are?  And with my anxiety attacks, I need boldness and clarity and discernment.  I am notorious for wallowing and mourning at tough things, but after I have my cry and time to process, I pull up my big girl panties and strap on my boots and get busy and become the force to be reckoned with.  I research, I come armed with knowledge, I won't take no for an answer, I fight to the end for my kids.  I need to be that right now.
I'm trying to look on the bright side: that I could use some respite (from Billy's 24/7 demands and for my back) and that I'll be able to get some things done (writing the play for the drama team, working on my book, working on my Etsy shop and my blog), but they all fall short of seeing those faces every day.  And just when I think I have set myself to accept this, the response of one of the kids knocks my feet out from under me and makes me feel like dirt.  How can a mom not protect her children?  And how can a court ask that of me?

I am also trying to remember Romans 8, that God will use this experience for the kids to make them more like Christ, to mold them and shape them into who He has planned for them to be.  And that He is with them always and loves them more than I could ever imagine AND has the power to protect them that I don't possess.  There's the possibility that they could be witnesses to their dad or their step-mom.

I have been angry and confused and upset and asking God why, but in the end, I do trust Him.  Nothing can shake that.  Like Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

While our summer vacation has been cut extremely short and what little time we do have is up in the air, depending on a lot of factors and variables, this reminds me that we are not promised a tomorrow.  We may count 18 summers, but we aren't promised that.  A court may order the kids to their dad's for the summer.  A friend lost her four-year-old to a brain tumor.  A woman at our church died of cancer, leaving behind her five-year-old son.  We are not promised any tomorrows.  All we have is now.  The plans, the calendars, the Pinterest boards--they are great, but today is the day to hug your kids and tell them you love them.  Teach them one life lesson.  Talk about God.  Tell them a family story.  Spend time with them.  Make a memory.  I know we are busy, but tomorrow may be too late.

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