I believe every family has sayings that have been passed down over the years – sayings made by family members and then repeated again and again. Often these comments are funny, laughed at every time they are uttered as memories of the person and the situation surface once more.
One of our family favorites is a comment made by Aaron years ago when he was very frustrated by having to pitch in and do some work around the house.
“Work, work, work!!” he exclaimed. “All I do is WORK!!”
No one understands the humor of his statement like we do. That’s because we all knew…and know…Aaron. He worked the least but complained the most. Now when one of us repeats that phrase with great emphasis, we all just laugh and shake our heads…just like we did when Aaron first said it.
I do believe we now have a new phrase, thanks once again to Aaron. Another one of many he has left us over the years, trust me.
Two weeks ago, Gary and I were packing up our vehicle for our annual trip to Houston. We travel there every April to see Andrea and Kyle, and with the added bonus of spending time with Andrew, who is there for an NHRA race.
This year we were taking lots of Andrea’s “stuff.” That’s because she and Kyle are married now, and have a house, so her “stuff” is hers once again.
We had many loads to carry out and put in our vehicle. Aaron was in the middle of all of it, talking and hovering, hoping that none of this activity was going to eat into our normal evening routine of watching a DVD or show. He seems to think that his presence will continually remind me that he is my priority.
So, we put him to work. He was willing to do so, thankfully, and really was a huge help. He helped lift the heavy electric piano into the van, as well as carrying box after box outside for us. Eventually, though, as we were nearing the end, Aaron’s impatience started to surface. He knew that I still had other things to do before we could watch a show. Bedtime was looming. His routine was already a mess, and his nerves were showing. He was excited at our leaving, with thoughts of all the restaurant meals awaiting him and his caregiver during the week, but also anxious at our being gone and his normal life being a little unhinged.
Aaron never offers to sit and talk about his feelings. Goodness, no! He doesn’t even understand what’s going on in his head and heart. But he does SHOW his feelings by usually hurting ours. Or by being confrontational, rude, stubborn…you get the picture.
His happiness at helping had turned instead to blame. He blamed his anger on us for making him work. He and I worked through all that for the most part, watching our show as he calmed somewhat, but then as I tucked him into bed later, he erupted again.
“Mom!!” he said. “You made me do servant work!! I don’t like SERVANT work!!”
It was so hard not to laugh! But believe me, all of us…minus Aaron…laughed a lot about what he said as we spent a few fun days together.
Servant work! Indeed!
In the week since we’ve been home, I’ve seen the other side of Aaron…the side that enjoys helping us. He wanted to help me cook supper one night, and then to send a picture to Andrea – who told me that it looked I was making Aaron do servant work again. 😊
He also wanted to share his Sonic mint with Gary that evening, so he put it on Gary’s supper plate.
This past Saturday, he asked if he could help me with some pruning.
He often takes our recycling to the container; brings down his laundry; sets the table; and other chores around the house.
Aaron is usually happy to help when things are going the way he wants. But when his version of normal is anything but, then helping becomes “servant work.” Not fun…not to be expected…not to be done!
I look at myself and I see this attitude of Aaron’s in me more than I like to admit, especially when it comes to caring for him. I’ll be honest. Taking care of a special needs child, even your OWN special needs child, is not all halo moments where we feel or act like angels.
Oh, my compassion is through the roof many times. Like when I sat in the ER with Aaron for five hours four days before our Houston trip, waiting for him to be admitted to the hospital for seizures the day before and very low sodium. Thankfully, we were sent home when his sodium level increased.
Home, where Aaron had a very long and a very scary seizure that evening.
His seizures, injuries, staples, stitches, missed fun days, so many meds, the look on his face as he held his Subway sandwich on our drive home…so many times my heart just breaks for him.
But then he has those behaviors, rigid routines, expectations of me, nonstop talking at times, anger…
Seizures that keep me home, having to change all my plans…and his. Extra laundry, sadness, worries for now and for the future…
A life unlike most of our peers for me and for Gary. Not able to up and go, to travel at will, to plan for a fun life of retirement trips.
Special needs parents weren’t given our children because WE’RE so special and God knew we could do this. God wants us to see that HE is the special One that we need, and that in no way could we live this life without Him and His grace and His strength. Goodness knows I have none of my own.
Many times, and many days, this life that God has given me can only seem like “servant work.”
But really, there are two kinds of servant work, and it’s my attitude that determines which I will experience each day…each moment.
When I think of how God wants me to serve in every situation, and when I do this servant work with that in mind, my attitude is one of inner joy and peace – even if outwardly things are crazy, and I am frustrated. My goal then isn’t about ME. It’s about Aaron, and to serve him in a way that pleases God.
But when I get in my own way and take my eyes off God…and like Aaron, things aren’t going the way I want…then I sometimes get angry and frustrated. When I do this, all too often, then I’m doing “servant work” in the way Aaron meant. Unpleasant, yucky, unhappy work that makes me bitter.
So, to all of us…and ESPECIALLY to my special needs parent friends…know that God understands. Just talk to Him when you’re exhausted, when you blew it, when you yelled at the child you love so much, when you’re envious of other’s lives, when you’re out of money and patience and even hope – just talk to God, lean on Him, and then know that each day is a new day.
A new day to do servant work, the way God intended. After all, we have the best example in Christ.
“Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a SERVANT, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7)
Servant work is God’s work, really. And He’ll give us what we need to do it the right way, every day.