31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 25: Understand Your Limitations

time suitcaseAre you a “drama junkie”?

When I was a kid, my Sunday school teachers taught me that “joy” was about “Putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.”

What they didn’t say is that is also the recipe for resentment, when the balance gets out of whack.

I’ve had to learn the hard way, for example, that holding down a full-time job and full-time family means that there is only so much I can do for someone in crisis. Pray. Call. Take a meal or send a comfort box. Perhaps work out a short visit. But I cannot in most cases make the problem go away — and if I spend too much time helping my neighbor tend his garden, the weeds begin to take over my own.

It often doesn’t feel like enough. Selfish, even. But is it selfish to recognize that I have limited resources (time, energy, money) and need to prioritize giving my family what they need?

Sometimes, my “drama junkie” tendencies win, and I rush headlong toward a crisis, trying to eradicate any trace of the problem — there’s a rewarding kind of emotional rush that goes with it. It took me a long time to realize this, but this is a very real form of selfishness, abdicating the responsibilities of my own vocation in order to over-extend myself in someone else’s garden.

The last time I did that — taking over the care of three boys whose mother was fighting leukemia — put my own children at risk (something we discovered, and paid for dearly, a year later). Sure, my friend needed help — but my children needed protecting even more. That experience taught me the importance of understanding my own limitations, and of not letting the “drama junkie” win.

Do you have to fight your inner “drama junkie”? Is there any area of your life where you are over-extending yourself, and need to acknowledge your limitations?

 

 

 

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“Don’t Be Weird, Mom!”

(This is a continuation of the series of articles reflecting on Come Be My Light and the spiritual motherhood of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, patron of adoptive and foster families, which I began earlier this year. For the original post, click the title.)

Sarah is an extraordinary walking paradox. She will parade around the house (and in public as often as I let her) with a mind-blowing array of fashion statements:
I applaud her budding confidence (insofar as it does not exceed the bounds of propriety). What puzzles me is that if I do anything the least bit unconventional … breaking into an impromptu chorus of “Sunrise, Sunset” and a little softshoe while I’m washing dishes, say, Sarah will invariably give me her stock response:
“Don’t be weird, Mom! People will think you’re weird!”

To which I respond, “Let them! The only thing that really matters is what God thinks of me, what I think of myself … and, to a different degree, what my family thinks about me.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not someone who typically flouts social convention on a whim. I love high teas and ballroom dancing and all manner of things traditional (it’s part of why I’m Catholic!). But when it comes to deciding standards of personal conduct, I learned a long time ago that “going with the crowd” is not always the wisest course of action.

This has a particular application to foster and adoptive parents. More than most parents, our children are going to have special emotional and other challenges that are going to make other people’s eyebrows go up with alarming frequency, especially in the beginning.

It happened the time my son punched the priest in the breadbasket for reaching out to bless him at Mass. And the following week, when my son (who had been hearing about his friend “Father Will” all week) greeted the elderly priest by patting the front of the man’s vestments as high as his two-year-old hands could reach. Come to think of it, it was right around the time of the scandals, too…

It happened the time my daughter drew a picture of her daddy in bed with her for the counselor (Craig has a nightly ritual of laying down next to her to read a bedtime story; the book was strangely absent in the picture). The next time it was a picture of mommy and daddy brandishing a L-O-O-N-G a whip (I still don’t know where that one came from, except maybe a horse scene in “Beauty and the Beast”).

It happened when my son’s first preschool teacher informed me that I was obviously neglecting my 4-year-old son’s needs because he didn’t use a napkin properly, and because he kept using words like “dead” and “kill.” (I wondered if the word his classmates had taught him — stupid — was so much better.)

It happens. And other people — those who don’t know your family — ARE going to judge you for it. Get ready for it … the disapproving looks, the heavy sighs, the hesitance to accept playdates. Get ready for the tons of unsolicited advice from grandparents, social workers, and total strangers about how you need to be “controlling” your children better.

I’m not saying don’t take the advice. Some veteran parents might give you some truly useful information with regard to managing stress, or potty training. But don’t expect them to understand, and don’t try to live up to someone else’s idea of perfect parenting. As a foster parent (or adoptive parent of an older child), there are going to be times when you need to march to another tune. Make a different choice. Try an unconventional method.

Don’t worry. If it’s a mistake, you can usually correct it mid-course. If the advice givers are real friends or if they truly love you, they will still be around years from now when the fruit of your labor ripens, and that wild little creatures is transformed into the radiant young man or woman who loves God and does what is right.

It’s OK to be weird when God takes you along a different path. Trust Him to give you the wisdom you need, exactly when you need it.
Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away,
but God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
She who possesses God, has everything.
For God alone suffices.
Teresa of Avila