Why Loving This Child Will Gut You Before It Fills You Up

This journey is hard. There’s no question. When we signed up for it, we never knew loving children from hard places would take so much out of us. We didn’t realize that, even when we felt empty, we’d have to keep going. But that’s what real love is all about.

It’s a cold and dreary day in Central Indiana. I’ve got a little extra time on my hands so I decide to do something I don’t often do. Go to the gym. I need it. It’s been a long and harsh winter, with plenty of sitting around and waiting for the weather to clear, plus I pay for a monthly membership fee. I cringe even as I type those words.

As I darken the doors of the fitness center I press my earbuds into my ears and begin to scroll through Spotify for the perfect workout mix. My usual thought-provoking and mellow music won’t do on an afternoon like this. I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling out of the mood for exercise. I need something with extra volume.

Nirvana….added! Chili Peppers….added!

I find my usual Arc Trainer, step up, adjust the settings, and begin. It’s painful. It’s hard. It’s been a few weeks!

After a few Curt Cobain anthems, an unfamiliar song comes across my playlist. Usually, I’m not paying attention during a workout, but for some reason, on this day, I am. The song lyrics go like this…

I am tired, I am drained
But the fight in me remains
I am weary, I am worn
Like I’ve never been before
This is harder than I thought
Harder than I thought it’d be
Harder than I thought
Takin’ every part of me
Harder than I thought
So much harder than I thought it’d be
But empty’s never felt so full
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what love
Feels like
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what love
Feels like
Poured out, used up, still givin’
Stretching me out to the end of my limits
This is what love (this is what love)
This is what real love
Feels like
This is what love feels like poured out
Used up still willin’ to fight for it
This is what love feels like
Yeah, this is what it feels like
(Feels Like, 2015, lyrics by TobyMac)

“Poured out, used up, still giving, stretching me out to the end of my limits.” Yep, that’s me. That’s this journey. Tears collect in my eyes as I think about my child, and the endless battles, and the sleepless nights, and the nasty things he says to us on the regular because he has permanent brain damage and lacks any ounce of impulse control or filter. The tears release and begin to stream down my face as I think about the fact that I still love him deeply, in-spite of all of this!

That’s the hard of this journey. That’s why it will gut you and leave you stretched to the end of your limits. And after it does that, you still have to find the will and the strength to keep pouring out. Your child and mine may not reciprocate the love you pour out. And that’s really, really hard to deal with. Your child and mine’s disorder (mine has an FASD), may push you away, verbally assault you, mentally exhaust you, and you still have to keep giving, and loving.

This is why loving this child may gut you before it fills you up. It might leave you completely empty before it brings you deep satisfying joy. And that may last a long long time. I know this is not what you signed up for back in the day when you started. You didn’t expect this to be this hard. But our children have come from some hard stuff and their inability to love back, and give back, is often gone, in short supply, or few and far between. It’s not their fault.

But your feeling of emptiness, and sometimes lack of love, is not your fault either. Hear me on this. It’s easy to beat yourself up because you feel you’re “supposed” to have a deep abiding love for this child. It’s easy to feel like a failure because, more days than not, you want to quit. It’s not easy to go day in and day out pouring out with nothing to fill you back up (at least not for a long while sometimes). But you’re a good mom and dad. You are still fighting. Heck, you’re reading this and that says something about you.

Yes, this journey may gut you at times. And it may be harder than you imagined to love this child, in the middle of them pushing you away, screaming at you, acting out against you, or hurling obscenities at you. But you were called to do this. You were meant to be his daddy. You were meant to be her mommy. And in time, the love you pour out for them, will take root.

Question: Have you felt gutted on this journey? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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