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The Internet says anger usually comes from fear, pain, or frustration/injustice. Let’s look for some detail to flesh this out. I think the cool guys would say, “Let’s unpack that.”

I was angry recently. It was a combination of all three: The pain came from the love I feel and how hard it was to see my loved one struggling. The fear came from what might be down the road if this struggling doesn’t end. The frustration was apparently about realizing I had no power to spare them the struggle. I just had to sit back and watch. Well, watch and try to carry on a conversation/get a few things done with a person whose struggle made this so very difficult. This time together even became a source of stress rather than the warm closeness I would have preferred and for which I had hoped. Maybe the key terms are preferred and hoped. Maybe I had some expectations that weren’t being met. In other words, I had set some goals for this relationship, some results, that I felt weren’t being met.

I know I risk sounding hopeless, pessimistic, or discouraging but there is a time and place to face reality. If your child had cerebral palsy, your goal wouldn’t be a Heisman Trophy in their future, right? For some reason, we too easily think those early traumas and the neurological consequences of them are more easily overcome or repaired. I’m not sure that is fair to anybody, but especially not the caregivers. I’m reminded of a young man I know. He is handsome and charming; makes a great first impression. Unfortunately, he isn’t a rule follower, lacks empathy, and seems to think the world owes him something. Not a great combination. He gets jobs easily (lots of them) but just isn’t reliable enough to keep one! Not easy to watch but not much to be done about it, either.

I harp on self-care so often in these pages. There is a partner to self-care: Serenity. How is this a statement of hopelessness?

God, grant me the Serenity to

Accept the things I cannot change,

The Courage to change the things I can, and

The Wisdom to know the difference.

I cannot change the rainy afternoon, but I can move the party indoors. When the party includes 9 10-year-old girls, courage is required because by moving the party indoors, something might get broken, sleep might not come easily, and the noise level will likely require ear plugs if any sleep is to be had at all. Notice that neither can I change anything about the likelihood that something might get broken, the noise level, or lack of sleep. The wisdom is in accepting that Plan B isn’t perfect, but it will do.

Some of you are living with children whose struggles you are just now realizing may be beyond anyone’s ability to relieve. You can report real improvements in their functioning. Real improvements like better sleep, better appetite, easier movement through the routines of the day like meals, baths, and getting dressed. But the struggles are still there at school, the grocery store, or heaven forbid, the beach or theme park. The meltdowns still draw judgmental scowls from people in line with you or anyone just passing by during the meltdown. And years after joining your household, your loving family, this child still struggles to give back anything that looks like, forget feels like, warm closeness.

But, today, you are ashamed of your anger and not sure where to direct it. You know it’s not the child’s “fault”. You know they are truly doing the best they can in this moment. You also know you are exhausted by it all. You are angry and frustrated that all your dedication has only gotten things this far and that all the appointments you rush to make on time, have only limited results, too. You are angry and fearful that this little life will always struggle to find any easy fit in the world. You are angry/in pain about the confusion/chaos/embarrassment/helplessness this situation brings you, your family, the child, and the entire community dedicated to helping them find their way in the world. Finally, you are angry at the people whose limitations resulted in the struggles this child experiences but neither fear nor frustration nor pain seem to fit this anger. It’s just anger.

I don’t have a solution to offer you. I can only hope that putting some of this into words affords you a moment’s relief knowing that you are understood and not alone. I am certain that this child, whom you commit to loving and doing your absolute best for every day, benefits from every moment of the love you deliver. But, maybe, it’s time to rethink those goals you originally set for yourself and this relationship.


  1. Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
  2. Our Friday night Happy Hour and Tuesday afternoon Coffee Chat continue. Some find Nancy or me and a single other participant; others find a conversation among 4 to 12 people. The topics range from the silly to what hobbies have us in their grip to what life has thrown in our path. If you ever find yourself wanting a bit of grown-up conversation, consider joining us (check your email for the unchanging link).
  3. The Caring for Caregivers project provides counseling sessions for those who do not have insurance to cover counseling services. Find the information and link at https://www.azafap.org/family-support-services/
  4. Parent Mentor Partners: AZAFAP has trained volunteer parents as mentors who are ready to help support foster, kinship, and adoptive parents through one-to-one conversations. Interested? Fill out the form at https://www.azafap.org/family-support-services/
  5. I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://youtu.be/uOsgDkeH52o?t=3 and at https://www.neurosequential.com .

Thanks for listening. Maintain yourself so you can be there reliably for others.

Cathy (cathyt@azafap.org)