Ever since Brooklyn started talking, we’ve had a “rule” that she is not allowed to say the words “I can’t.” If something is too hard for her to do on her own, she needs to try one more time, and if she still can’t do it, she simply needs to ask for help.
I also made a promise to myself that I would never say “no” or make the decision to bow out of something because of Brooklyn’s disability. That was never a good reason. Somehow, some way, we would make it work.
My goal has always been to show Brooklyn that she could do anything she wanted. That if there was a will, there was a way. I wanted her to see life as a constant adventure, not a constant disappointment.
This strategy has worked well for our girl, and it really hasn’t been that hard to “teach.” God has made her feisty and motivated, and I’ve never really had to push her too hard. From the start, it was clear that Brooklyn was going places, regardless of what test results showed. Her abilities far exceed any of our specialists’ expectations. She has, and continues to be, the exception in more ways than one.
As her mom, this makes me extremely proud. I love her spirit, and I love the way she approaches life. I love when specialists tell me how amazed they are, and I love that her teachers constantly tell me what a joy she is to be around. My daughter is strong and happy, and in her eyes, she has no limits.
This is exactly what I wanted for her.
There is only one little problem: She actually has limits.
And as it turns out, so do I.
This is a lesson God has to keep teaching me, and I have a feeling it’s a lesson most of our generation needs to learn.
Somewhere along the way, we learned that we should push and push and push until we reach some level of super power and only then, maybe, can we feel as if we’ve reached success. Most of us, though, never really reach a level where we are satisfied, so we keep raising the bar, taking on more and more until we either get to the point that we are neglecting all of the good things in our life, or we break and then live in some deep sense of failure and shame.
I watch Brooklyn, and I see her determination and desire to do everything her sisters are doing. So far, I have been able to help her do those things. But as she gets older (and heavier), we are coming face to face with the reality that she and I are both physically limited in what we can allow her to do.
We can still try—we will always try—but sometimes when there is a will, there still isn’t a way. Sometimes “no” is the answer, and you know what? That is okay.
We don’t have to be able to do everything.
And, better yet, no one expects us to do everything. It is healthy, even necessary, to set limits for ourselves. It is also healthy, even necessary, to admit that we have limits.
Because we actually can’t do everything.
This sounds a little silly, I know. Obviously, we can’t do everything. But I truly think that most of us walk around believing the lie that everyone else is, in fact, doing everything, and that somehow, we should be too.
For almost 10 years, I have juggled raising kids and working from home. The convenience and flexibility are wonderful, and I have been able to blow bubbles and help with school parties and be home when my girls get off the bus. But I won’t lie: Most of those years I ran on fumes, sacrificing things like sleep and health, and it eventually took its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally.
About three years ago, I pushed myself way too far, and I almost lost “it.” And by “it,” I mean any sense of joy in my kids, my husband, my work, and most everything else in my life.
I was miserable.
Right at my breaking point, I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I wanted joy in my life, and I wanted to just.stop.pushing.
That required the hard work of adding necessary things to my life and letting go of some of the less necessary things. None of these steps were easy for me, and in all honestly, I did it more for my family at the time than for myself. I knew they deserved the best parts of me, and I needed to find those things again.
So I took action. I went and saw a counselor for a few months to talk through some hard things. I also hired a babysitter who allowed me to get my work done during normal hours of the day. And as much as I am still a little embarrassed to admit this, I have (more recently) hired a cleaning crew to come to my home once a month because I just can’t get to it all.
I also started working out again, seeking more time with God, and going to bed at a normal(ish) hour. I started saying “no” if I was asked to take on something I knew was too much, even if there was a nice paycheck attached to it.
I realized that at the end of the day, I only had 100% to offer, not 10,000%. I realized that saying yes to something took from something else. It’s simple math, of course, but somehow in the midst of push, push, push, I forgot how to add—and subtract.
Here’s the truth: If you think for one second that someone in your life (or on Facebook or Pinterest) is doing it all, it just isn’t true. They either have help, or they are probably running on fumes and/or miserable.
I know not everyone can afford to hire a cleaning crew or turn down a paycheck. And trust me, we have been there. But I think all of us could probably afford to say “no” a little more, and I’m almost certain most of us could use a few more hours of sleep.
Saying “no” does not equal failure. A strong person knows herself well enough to set limits and abide by them. She is confident enough to admit weakness and ask for help from God and from other people in her life.
In this new season with Brooklyn, I can see that this is something I am still working through. My instinct is to always push. I want Brooklyn to achieve far more than this world expects from her—and far more than she even thinks she’s capable of—but I also don’t want her feeling a deep sense of failure or shame when she can’t do something. As I learned firsthand, this is no way to live.
The balance is tricky, and she may have to learn the hard way, like I did. In fact, I am already watching my older girls reach limits in their own ways, and several times I have went to bed in tears over their disappointment.
Limits are hard, especially when it comes to our children. We want everything for our kids.
But everything just isn’t possible.
My job, as their mom, is to always encourage them to try, but more importantly, to provide a soft place for them to land when they reach a limit. I need to remind them that “no” is okay and that limits are good. Disappointment forces us to grow in ways accomplishment never would have allowed.
Above all else, I need to remind them that they are not loved because of what they can or can’t do, but because of what Christ did for them. Their worth does not come from this world or their own abilities. It comes from God and His ability to work all things for our good and His glory.
I also need to provide space in my life to remind myself of the same truth. That means saying “no,” and it also means not feeling bad about saying “yes” to myself once in a while.
There is a reason most of us are exhausted. There is a reason many of us are living in shame. We are doing too much. We are forgetting that limits are a very important part of growth. Instead of hitting our knees, we are climbing ladders so high that they are buckling underneath us.
We need people to lean against. We need a solid foundation to stand on.
As it turns out, we weren’t designed to do everything.
That, my friends, is what God is for.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9