When my husband was a little boy, he boxed his dad on the living room floor. His siblings and mom gathered around and watched as the skinny little boy with the red boxing gloves took on “El Luchador.” My father-in-law stood tall on his knees, and with exaggerated moves, he ducked the punches or swung back like an inflatable punching bag.
After swinging those punches hard, my husband would stand there, panting, red boxing gloves resting at the sides of his body. Then, when my father-in-law least expected it, Andy would start swinging the punches again, eventually conquering “El Luchador.”
On our wedding day, as my father-in-law performed our ceremony, he told us about the little boy who wouldn’t give up and kept on swinging, and he said, “Many things will come into your marriage and try to tear you apart, but don’t give up. Just keep swinging, never at each other, but at whatever is trying to bring you down.”
And I’ve never forgotten that analogy.
Recently, we’ve been battling mental health issues with my middle daughter, who we adopted from Ukraine four years ago. She has cerebral palsy, and she is getting to an age where she is aware of her disability, and she doesn’t like it. But more than her obvious disability, the damage, pain, and hurt that she endured the first four years of her life living in an orphanage have really started to show in the way of behaviors, fears, anxiety, depression. She has attachment issues, and she has post traumatic stress. Parenting her is the hardest and most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do.
The truth is, often times I don’t know what to do, except for one thing: to keep swinging. In the safety of our marriage, our children can find peace and comfort, so we swing at the challenges that threaten to crush our daughter, and we keep swinging. Because she’s worth it, and because that’s what parents do, we keep swinging on behalf of our kids.
Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.