I still remember where I was sitting the first time another mom explained to me that my child wasn’t as difficult as I seemed to think.
She wasn’t mean about it. Not at all. But the words still shocked me into silence.
The truth? I had barely brushed the surface of the issues we were facing at home. Barely even said anything that indicated how hard things actually were!
But the reason she said something was because of our rules.
In this case? That my nine year old had to stay in my sight to play with other children.
If you’re an adoptive mom of a child who carries trauma, I don’t even have to explain that rule to you.
You get it, no questions asked.
But other people don’t.
In fact, to put it bluntly, there are a lot of people who just assumed we didn’t know how to parent well.
Over the years we’ve had it explained to us that we’re too naive or too pessimistic or too strict or too lenient– basically, no matter what angle you look from, we’re too, well, wrong.
I’ll admit I had a bit of a personal crisis after that first conversation.
I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to tell, in detail, the reasons why we made the parenting choice we did.
But I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t saying anything because I looked up at my nine year old child and saw all the trauma and hardship and fears and questions– and I chose to carry the heaviness instead.
I could have told stories that would have made that mom scoop up her kids and keep them far away from mine. But I didn’t want that to happen. I was willing to keep everyone safe– and I didn’t want my child’s trauma-related issues to ruin every relationship, so I chose to carry that round of disapproval so my child didn’t have to.
I can’t always. Sometimes I have to share for the safety of others. Sometimes I have to share because I’m not strong enough to shoulder all the trauma, all of the time.
But sometimes I can carry some of it–just for a little while–just to give my child a break–just to widen the space around them so they can find healing and maturity before facing their past head-on.
I’m not the only adoptive mom who has sat under the combined weight of a child’s poor choices and other people’s opinions.
It’s rough here. It’s exhausting and lonely.
But don’t forget it’s also real-life Jesus-work, fellow mamas.
At the beginning of Galatians 6 we’re told, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In context, Paul is talking about staying “in step” with the Spirit (5:25)– being led by the Spirit of the Lord rather than the spirit of this world.
A worldly spirit is self-absorbed. It’s looking for self-gratification and willing to harm others in an effort to protect or fulfill oneself.
The fruit of the Spirit, in contrast, is love. It’s joy. It’s peace. It is goodness and patience and kindness. It’s faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.
It’s dealing with transgressions gently with the person who chose the sin (6:1) and being willing to help shoulder the weight on their behalf (6:2).
To love well, to protect our children, there are times when we need to block the brunt of the full consequences of their actions from raining down judgment on their heads. Not forever, of course. Which Paul actually points out to the Church of Galatia a couple verses later when he reminds them that everyone must also carry their own burden.
Some people get confused at these two conflicting sentiments, but as a mom it makes sense to me.
Sometimes, in gentleness, I step up beside my child and help them face the choices they’ve made while blocking the full force of the weight from marking their life. I carry the weight for them.
Other times I have to step back and allow the weight to press down so they can look up and realize that in Jesus there is a better way to live–a way that keeps them in step with the Spirit for themselves.
They won’t always have me or need me, but Jesus? They’re going to need him every moment.
So there is a balance.
Dearest mama who is struggling under the weight of other people’s opinions:
you’re doing Christ-like work by protecting your children. It’s not forgotten, it’s not unseen.
In fact, part of the same passage is Paul’s reminder that God will not be mocked, man will reap what he sows. Your good work on behalf of your children is sowing good seed. It is. God has not and will not forget you or the work you are doing.
This job of loving well is the heart of our faith.
And I know, oh, how I know, how intense it is when the mission field is right in our homes where we don’t ever get to rest. I know what it’s like to live on the frontline every second without getting a break.
But no matter how hard it is, it’s still the work of Christ.
Let us not grow weary in doing good, dear ones.
When you’re stumbling under this weight, when you’re ready to give up, pull open your Bible to Galatians 5 and 6. Read it over and over. Play it on your Bible app. Let the words wash over you.
Remember that carrying the burden for our children for a season is a way of showing them tangible love.
It’s true that they may never recognize it, but God does. He does.
Praying deep and overflowing love into you,
These letters are not exhaustive. They should not be used to diagnosis, and they only show the viewpoint of one person. While I share some of our personal story—some details may be purposefully vague or altered slightly for privacy. Thank you in advance for being respectful and trustworthy with the stories shared here.
This letter is part of a series titled “Dear Adoptive Mom“.
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