My first mistake? Driving my Honda Fit around the barricade that blocked the residential road in my neighborhood. My second mistake? Inadvertently driving into the middle of an international bicycle race that had apparently been scheduled that weekend.
Of course, I didn’t realize what I’d done until a pace car for the race (followed by hundreds of speeding cyclists) rounded the empty street corner toward me. Then it all made sense: the rattling din of cowbells, the frantic arm-waving of the crowds who lined the street, the look of horror on their faces upon my arrival, and their almost universal warning cry, “Pull over!”
How often have I needed to do that—to take a break and pull over—from this life with middle-aged responsibilities, from autism parenting’s relentless demands, and from a digital calendar that is too full of alarms, reminders and to-do lists? I love my children and I love my husband but how many times do I ignore God’s prodding to pull over and take care of myself and my marriage so that I can take better care of my family?
I have been reading a book with my husband written by a man with a teenage son with autism. His advice to slow down and to give ourselves the rest we need has been good to hear but so, so frustrating to implement.
My husband and I, married 23 years this August, need time together alone. We need to heed the barricade of protection God put around our marriage–to spend time with each other—to strengthen us and replenish a reserve that often teeters on “empty”. We need a break. And our children need us to take that break.
Like so many in this transient culture, we don’t have family nearby to allow us the space to recharge our marital and individual batteries. But we also know that time away is essential for our emotional, relational sanity. So we decided to take a step of faith (it feels more like a leap over the Grand Canyon). We have reserved two nights in a nearby state park and have done what we have never done before: we are leaving our teenage sons on their own. Sort of. (We have friends who will be checking in with them regularly.)
I confess. I have been terrified. With a gift for envisioning worst-case scenarios, my prayer is often, “God, please let this work out well, or else please keep us from going!”
But this morning over a cup of coffee, God spoke through a dear friend whose greater life experience with teens and disability shed some perspective-changing truth. I must give my children opportunities to succeed and give God an opportunity to shine, but in so doing, it will be hard and it will be messy. That is normal. Mistakes and missteps are a necessary part of growth.
So in trusting God to give my marriage the rest it needs, and in growing my boys toward independence, will our trip away mean that all will go well? No. It is likely that it will not. It is likely that we will get a phone call that will have us packing up our things and driving back home before our overnight away has hardly begun. And this may happen the next time we try it. And the next. But over time, we will learn. And so will our boys. And it is worth it.
God calls us to take care of our children. He also calls on us to care for our marriages. And ourselves. And in so doing, there are boundaries we must heed and times we must pull over to rest and recharge our relational batteries.
I am just hoping that next time it won’t take cowbells and a pace car to make me realize that it’s time.
Question: What fear of mistakes or imperfect outcome is keeping you from risking growth, either for yourself or for your children? What conversation with God can you have that may challenge you to pull over and do things differently than you previously dared?
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
- Calming our Anxiety in Special Needs Parenting - August 24, 2015
- Victory in the Seeming Loss of Special Needs Advocacy - June 22, 2015
- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015