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Posts Tagged ‘Child’

ME FIRST

As a child, you may remember receiving an ice cream cone on a sweltering summer day. ice cream conesJumping up and down in excitement with the other children, you probably shouted “me first,” anticipating the sweet pleasure of a refreshing treat.

Perhaps, you recall anxiously waiting to be chosen for a baseball team at recess. The two captains took turns picking their favorites. Competition was fierce and they each wanted to get the strongest athletes for their team. To attract attention, you vigorously waved your arms and screamed, “Pick me, pick me, “I’m a good hitter, I’m a fast runner.”

“Me first” thinking is typical for a child. “Others first” comes later with maturity.

Strangely though as I matured, “me first” did a total switch on me. It rapidly turned into doing the hard stuff — the stuff for which no one waved their arms and jumped up and down yelling “me first.”

I wish I could say that when my babies cried to be fed in the night I always turned to my husband and said “me first.”

Nor, have I always wanted to say “me first” when a friend needed to be driven to an appointment or was without a babysitter for her children.

Surely, I cannot tell you that I always considered my own faults (“me first”) before finding fault in others and I have often given advice freely without heeding it myself first.

On the other hand, I sometimes find “me first” thinking to be entirely appropriate and even wise…

First responders are taught “me first” safety rules. They learn that when they assist accident victims, they must first check the scene to determine if it is safe for them to enter. Mamed responders are of no help to victims.

Young mothers must take care of themselves first so they can meet the needs of their children. As a seventy-two year old grandmother raising an energetic teenager, I tire easily. Just yesterday, I had to say “me first” and take a nap rather than going to the mall.

“Me first” thinking can have both positive and negative implications. Nevertheless, what is most meaningful to me is when my Creator beckons me each morning and says, “ME FIRST.”

“But, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

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Today, I want to salute all the fathers, especially those who have a child that has a disability.

My husband is one of those courageous men. In August 2012, he will be a father for fifty years and has been a grandfather for more than thirty years. He was a big encourager for our daughter, who suffered from bipolar disorder. Even though his words were few, his love for her was unconditional.

After she was divorced and raising her two children alone, my husband maintained a vegetable garden in her yard. We all enjoyed the fresh produce, but I suspect the garden was the vehicle he used to keep a fatherly eye on his grown up baby girl, always encouraging her to carry on. Her mental dysfunction, kept her needy and she often asked him to hang a picture, run an errand, trim the bushes, or just to visit over a cup of coffee at her kitchen table.

Fathers deal differently than mothers with mental illness in their family. Because mothers are more nurturing, they work out their disappointment and grief by getting actively involved in their child’s daily problems and by advocating for them. Fathers take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it appears as though they are in denial about the illness, but they are dealing with their grief in a different way. They often escape in their work, in sports, or other activities. They need a little more time to process what is happening and we mothers need to be patient with them.

So, I wish a happy Father’s Day to all you courageous dads, and thank you for sticking with your family, even in the tough times.

Dorothy Ruppert, Author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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When people are in the hospital for depression, a psychotic episode, or a need to adjust their medicines, they say they rarely get cards, flowers or visits from friends and relatives. I have known families who get no assistance from anyone, including their immediate family, when one of their children is in the hospital for a psychotic break. No one offers to babysit for the other children; no one provides transportation; no one seems to care. However, it is totally the opposite if this child is in the hospital because of a car accident, a surgery, or a treatment for cancer.

Why is this? Perhaps it is because mental illness spooks people out. People seem to view it as dark and mysterious, shrouded in stigma and shame. However, illnesses that cause dysfunction in the brain are no different from illnesses that cause kidney, heart, or thyroid dysfunction.

If hospitalizations are recurring in the life of an individual, it is common for others to begin to wonder why this person cannot seem to get it together. Do we ever question why cancer recurs? Do we blame or shun the victim and wonder why they cannot seem to get it together?

I realize it is difficult to know how to relate to a person who does not seem to be in control of their mind. When there is a death in a family, people also find it hard to relate, not knowing what to “say,” but at least they know what to “do.” They bring in food, send cards and flowers, and call with expressions of condolence. In both cases, death and a mental break, the sufferer just needs others to support them with their presence.

If a family receives no support when one of its members is in the behavioral unit at the hospital, they learn quickly to isolate from their friends and neighbors and keep silent about the matter. They build a wall around their hurt and the next time it happens, they deal with it in silence and shame. While this reaction may protect the family from feeling shunned and criticized, it serves no good purpose for the hospitalized member.

If someone has the courage to share with you about a family member’s mental health hospitalization, consider it a privilege. I encourage you to, with your whole heart, treat the person temporarily struck down by the illness and their family with the same respect you would if it were any other type of hospitalization.

On the flip side, I encourage families to share about a mental health hospitalization when it occurs, beginning with those who might understand and react appropriately with gifts of kindness. Gradually, it will become easier to step out and share with those who may not have any knowledge of mental illness and/or may not have a clue how to react. We all need to learn more about mental illness. We all need to learn how to act appropriately in messy areas that are outside our comfort zones. That builds character.

Take a risk. Share a problem, offer your support, and watch your character grow!

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If I try too hard to make my kids happy and break all their falls, it will backfire.  When grown, they will expect everything in life to go their way. Their personal happiness will take priority over everything. If I refuse to let my children learn from failures, they will be unprepared for the harsh realities of the world. They will have difficulty submitting to a spouse, a supervisor at work, or a civil authority because their life will be all about their own gratification. In the long term, they may never find happiness, or they may encounter casualty upon casualty throughout a lifetime in their personal relationships.

It is hard enough to train a child who is well to accept responsibility for his/her actions; it is much harder to do this with a child who has a disability. As a mother with a nurturing bent, I will always want to ease the pain of my disabled child because I know his/her disability will bring harsh realities and disappointments that others may never have to face. However, I fully understand that sheltering them will only lead to disaster later on.

Two weeks ago, my 19-year-old grandson, who has lived with his grandfather and me for three years, decided he was going to move out and get an apartment with two friends. He has a disability, but generally, his outward appearance and actions do not reveal it. He had enough money in the bank for the deposit and rent for two months, with a little left over for groceries. After several long discussions with him, my husband and I could see that we were not getting our point across. Our point was that signing a one-year lease without a job was a recipe for a crash and burn scene.  It seemed to us that employment should come before renting an apartment, but he assured us he would have no trouble getting a job very soon. Perhaps he was correct in thinking so, however, overconfidence is a symptom of his illness.

During our last discussion with him, my husband went silent long before me. He stopped trying to reason with our grandson, while I kept talking, but my logical words bore no fruit.  I finally stopped talking. In frustration, I retreated to my bedroom and started vacuuming the carpet with fury, while praying about what to do. I cannot explain what happened next, except that a peace came over me and I felt strongly that God was releasing my, almost 20-year-old, grandson from under my daily care.

The peace remained. The next day I went to the bank with him and withdrew his money, which was in my account. I had done everything in my power to help him make a responsible decision, albeit without success. I could protect him no longer from the “hard knocks” of life. Releasing him was emotionally complicated because of his disability, nevertheless, it was clearly time to “let go, and let God.”

Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”

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