While I was living with my former in-laws, my (hopefully soon-to-be) former mother-in-law made the suggestion that I could start a ministry for families with kids with special needs in Jon’s next parish. When I told her why that was really not a good idea, she was less than pleased and told me that I was being incredibly selfish.
A year later, I was fighting bout #2 of bronchitis which was caused partially by the stress of ending my marriage. My parents were out of town and my idiot PA told me he wanted to admit me to the hospital immediately for Prednisone and antibiotics. When I told him that I couldn’t be admitted to the hospital because I had nobody to watch my child, he excoriated me for refusing the prednisone (which, by the way, IS BLACK-BOXED ON MY CHART FOR THE REACTION I HAVE TO IT!!!!!) and for refusing hospital admission, telling me that I had to take care of myself and learn to ask for help.
What these two things have in common is that both of them assumed that I have far more in terms of resources than I actually had. My former mother-in-law assumed that I would have the emotional, mental, and physical resources to take care of Daniel at church AND several other kids with varying levels of special needs. In churches that have such ministries, THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS. You have rotating groups of people who are trained that take turns helping out one Sunday a month. You never ask the parents to be the ones doing it because Sunday worship might be the one time a week they get to replenish their emotional/mental reserves for the week.
My idiot PA assumed that I had people who could help and I was just refusing to ask. Yeah… if I had people who could take over my difficult child, DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD ASK?!?!?!? So many single mamas like me with difficult kids are frequently flying by the seat of our pants. Yes, my parents could take over… unless they’re not available and then I’m very much SOL. I had a control journal for Daniel and if I had been hooked up with the local Regional Center, I might have had a respite worker… but we were in the process of moving so I never got hooked up. So I was taking care of my kid and getting him to school on no sleep and I’d be coughing so badly I was puking while he was at school. I probably should have been hospitalized (no Prednisone though!) but I had no choice but to refuse. (My BFF and my tasoni both mothered me by remote control that week and it helped immensely.)
I wish the world could understand that a lot of us moms with special kiddos are pouring from empty cups, not because we want to, but because we have no other choice. I want Daniel at church with me but by the same token, church is one of those times when I try to fill my cup for the next week. I managed to get through church with him a few weeks ago… but that was because my priest and my parish surrounded me and supported me so I could be a lector and I could sing with the choir. People asked me what I needed and gave me grace when my kid didn’t act like they wanted him to. That helped me fill up my cup a little bit.