I've been a reluctant caregiver most of my life, but didn't realize it was a problem until after the birth of our first child. He was medically fragile for the first four years of his life, but his special needs weren't the cause of my reluctance. In truth, I rose to the challenge whenever a health crisis arose. But after his recovery from each surgery or hospital stay, when life returned to the norm of putting our baby's daily needs above my desire for creative and intellectual pursuits, I became a reluctant caregiver.
I discovered I wasn't a baby person.
Or a toddler person.
Not even a preschool person.
I loved our son and then our daughter fiercely from the day each one was born. But, I didn't lay down the mantle of a reluctant caregiver until our children reached age 5 or so. Only then did caregiving cease to consist of marking time until they went down for naps or to bed for the night. Only then did our hours together become a fascinating time of introducing them to God's fascinating creation.
I was ashamed of my reluctance.
I kept the secret buried deep.
I convinced myself that I'd outgrown it.
I almost forgot about it.
Until my mother was diagnosed with dementia and required care from me and my siblings. Until our grandchildren arrived, and I began babysitting them. Until my husband needed surgery, and I was his post op caregiver. Until the demands of those relationships unearthed the truth.
I was as reluctant as ever.
As immature as ever.
As ashamed as ever.
Those relationships, however, unearthed another truth as well. Reluctant though I was, I showed up. Not just when it was convenient for me, but whenever those I loved needed me. I showed up for a week of grandma duty when my daughter's family had an out-of-state medical emergency. I showed up when my son had to go out of town and didn't want his wife alone with their two small children. I showed up to drive my husband to the doctor. I showed up to handle my mother's business affairs, to do her Christmas shopping, to sell her house when she couldn't, and to play countless games of Uno with her. Though I was reluctant, I showed up. I continue to show up when those I love need my care.
You show up, too. You show up every morning to take your child with special needs to school, to therapy, to doctor's appointments. You show up to change your adolescent child's diapers, to hunt down trach supplies, to find inclusive recreational activities for your child. You show up in the middle of the night when your child's monitor beeps and in the middle of the school day when the principal calls.
Being reluctant doesn't matter.
Down deep, we are all reluctant caregivers.
We all wish our children's lives could be easier.
We all wish for more time for us.
Showing up is what matters.
At Christmas we celebrate God's remarkable, redeeming story of showing up as a helpless baby. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, who showed up to make a way for reluctant sinners to come to the Father. This Christmas, instead of feeling guilty about our reluctance, I invite you to celebrate the One who gives us the grace we need to show up each day and love those He has put into our care. This Christmas, let's celebrate showing up.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.