It’s a sad fact that parents of children with special needs are much more likely to get divorced or go bankrupt. I’m not sure of the current exact number, but it’s really high. I think they’re about ten times more likely. (**edit – A friend of mine, just sent me the number, the divorce rate is 75-85%) But it’s even more than that. Ninety percent of families with children like these can’t even do something as simple as go to church, because it’s too hard. The ridiculous amounts of stress and financial burden coupled with the sleep deprivation make folks want to go crazy, and looking for an escape hatch is understandably tempting. The parents’ relationship disintegrates, not because they don’t want to maintain it, but because simply, at the end of the day, there’s nothing left.
We have been incredibly blessed beyond belief when I look at other families. While Michael’s and Gabriel’s medical costs may seem high to us, they’re a drop in the bucket of what other families spend. Desperate parents mortgage entire homes in hopes of finding a treatment that will help their child. Our family loves and supports us and embraces our children and their idiosyncrasies, other extended families are often not so understanding, accusing parents of making things up or simply abandoning them if the strain is too great. Even churches are guilty of ostracizing families in need, asking parents not to return if their child is too violent or high maintenance. God has filled our church with people who have a heart for those in need of extra help, going out of their way to serve children who need extra love and parents who just need a break.
Despite all that, it’s still hard. It’s still up to us to deal with whatever nightmare is happening with our kids in the middle of the night. It’s still up to us to deal with the screaming and the flailing in public places. The extreme amounts of emotion and energy that fill our house at all hours of the day and night is incredibly draining, and there’s no hiding from it.
And so I too, am guilty of looking at Nate at the end of the day and saying there’s nothing left. I just want to sleep and hide under the blankets for whatever precious time I’m lucky to get at night, sometimes scared, because I know the same thing is waiting for me the next day. It’s not that extreme all the time, but it happens way more often than I’d like.
Marriage maintenance is hard under any circumstances and feels downright impossible in others. I find that I pray for my children a lot, but not as much for Nate or our relationship. I think it’s time to change that. But even though I haven’t defended this particular area as well as I should, God has still preserved us. I’d say we’re doing better than ever because the pressure is making us stronger. We have our moments, just like every one else, but a lot of them can be solved by a good nap. I’ve realized that we fight each other less because we have to fight so much together. It was a neat analogy I found in Jon and Stacy Eldredge’s marriage book Love and War (great book by the way, everyone could benefit from reading it). If you’re partnered together in some terrific cause, fighting to advance good and God’s kingdom, you’re much less likely to see your spouse as the enemy. Nate’s been my partner in helping raise our kids, and while that can strain our relationship in some ways, it makes us stronger in so many others.
It’s time for me to start battle on a new front and cover our marriage in prayer. I want it to be the best is can, no matter what trials happen in the every day.
Nate, I know you’re too busy being a dad and working two jobs to read my blog, but I love you and appreciate you as the blessing from God you are, and I’m going to be praying more for you and for us.