This morning I have a crying 10 year old. It’s Sunday, the day her choir is singing in church. There’s also a church party in the afternoon and she just spent the morning vomiting. Disappointed doesn’t even cover it.
Her older sister is feeling fine and gets to sing both their solos in the choir, and will most likely be going to the party, unless she too begins to throw up. Life just isn’t fair.
“It’s not like it’s a normal Sunday where nothing special is happening,” she says. “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Why couldn’t I have gotten sick last week? It just isn’t fair! Can you keep my sister home this afternoon and not let her go the party either? That would make me feel better.”
So, I sit on the foot of her bed and try to find the right words. It’s hard. There’s no way to fix this and make it better. I can’t wave a magic wand and make her well. (Boy, if I could do that I’d be a millionaire!) I can’t change time or have the choir performance postponed. I can’t move the church party. I can’t do any of the things that we parents all wish we could do. But I can understand.
As I talk with her, I realize that I need to hear the same words I’m telling her. You see, the day before, a young couple I sort of know got married and Facebook was filled with pictures of their beautiful wedding and smiling faces going off on a fabulous honeymoon. And I’m happy for them, truly I am, but I’m also jealous.
My honeymoon was spent in the ER with a 104 degree fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting. My happily ever after involved years of living with an actively alcoholic spouse, and now a baby who has Down Syndrome, intractable epilepsy, severe global delays, and low vision.
At 2 am when this young couple is enjoying their first night together in a nice hotel with room service, my husband and I are changing my two year-old’s sheets for the fifth time because he also can’t stop vomiting. They’re going on a weeklong vacation together and we’ve managed to go on one date this entire year. One.
It’s so easy to have a bitter heart. So easy to look at what could have been, what we think should have been, and be angry. Why did my husband have to start drinking? Why did my baby have to be born this way? Why did I have to get sick the day of the choir performance? Why do I have to be the one to miss the party?
And then, we move from there to being envious of others. Why does she get the nice honeymoon? Why is their baby ok? Why did she get to sing my part in the choir? Why does she get to go to the party? And we think, deep in our hearts, that it would make us feel better if those people suffered too.
And that’s when we need the light of Christ to shine into our dark hearts.
So, what I tried to explain to my daughter (and myself) is this: It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to feel regret. It’s ok to cry. But it’s not ok to be angry. And we stop ourselves from being angry by looking at things the right way.
My husband might have been an active alcoholic, but, by the grace of God, he’s recovering and it’s been almost two years since his last drink. There are many women who have not been so blessed and I am so very grateful that he changed.
My baby boy might have a myriad of health problems, but this week he suddenly stopped needing to be on oxygen support. He might not be able to do anything that a typical one year old can do, but he’s making huge improvements and he smiles every time I pick him up. I am so grateful that I can now carry him around the house without also carrying a heavy oxygen tank. I am so grateful for 112 seizure free days. I am so grateful that I am not in the hospital with him right now.
We’re going to miss out on lots of stuff in life. This world is a fallen place, full of sin and sickness and death, but if we keep a grateful heart, and look forward to when there will be no more tears, or sadness, or missed parties, we can stop that bitterness before it even begins.
I’m not sure if my daughter really heard me, and that’s ok. Because I’m 36 and I need to hear this every day. I think I get it, and then something happens and I start comparing the worst parts of my life to the best parts of other people’s lives.
But maybe each time we preach the truth to ourselves a little bit more of it sticks, and we start to cultivate a heart and perspective of gratitude instead of woe-is-me.
Except for vomiting two-year-olds. I haven’t figured out how to be grateful for that yet…
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!