As most people know by now, this has been a very difficult year for me and my family. The premature birth of my son in January, his three months of hospitalization, his Down Syndrome and the challenges that have come along have pushed our family in numerous ways. We have had to readjust our expectations of ourselves, our family and our friends, all while giving ourselves the permission to struggle and even fail at times. Our kids have had to learn to share parental time, how to help more around the house, and have matured in amazing ways.
Overall, this has been an extremely challenging but very rewarding year for the Kuiper household. But in the last two weeks, a new challenge has been placed in front of our family.
That’s right, school. A few weeks ago, we found out about a program in the state of Colorado in which parents can earn income by taking care of their handicapped children if they have their CNA (certified nurses assistant) certification. And when we found out that a local organization was willing to pay for Treshia’s CNA classes, and even her certification tests, we prayed about it and felt like the Lord was giving us an amazing opportunity. So we signed up and jumped in. Since then, Treshia has had to attend classes every evening, while I have had to take care of things at home.
Every day after work, I pick up the kids, head home, finish homework, make dinner, get kiddos in the shower, feed the baby, and get everyone ready for bed. Meanwhile, Treshia has to carry a brutal schedule better fit for a woman in her twenties, not a working mother in her early forties. Everyday, she gets ready for work, drives the kids to school, works from 8-5, then drives to school. She then attends class until 10pm, comes home and studies until midnight, then gets in bed in time to get 4-5 hours of sleep before it begins again. By the time the weekend comes, she is completely spent. She has nothing left and yet her family is desperate for her time and attention. And that is where an unexpected battle has come into my life. In the midst of being a virtual single father all week, I also have to fight for my marriage.
How so? I have found that with everything that is going on, and the absence of my beloved bride, my natural instinct is to shut down my heart and go into survival mode. It is easier to focus on the tasks that need to be done, to pour myself into my goals at home and to unplug from my marriage. But then when the weekend comes around, my lonely heart longs to reconnect with my best friend and is disappointed and hurt when she has almost nothing to give back and has to focus on schooling, her own uncompleted tasks or simply to catch up on the sleep that she has lost all week. And as my heart feels that disappointment and hurt, my instincts are to emotionally quit and shut down. No, I do not even consider pursuing a divorce, or anything that drastic, but emotionally I want to file the paperwork and move on. I am hurting and want to do anything to make the pain go away. But I can’t. And I won’t. But that means I have to FIGHT for my marriage. I have to mentally stop myself from focusing on my own hurts and pains, and the extra burdens that I am carrying.
Instead, I have to concentrate on my wife and on my children. I must put myself into her shoes, and consider what she is going through. And I must be willing to take care of everything at home, from meals to baths to cleaning, so she can concentrate on the tasks set before her without having to worry about her home or her family. I must be willing to love my wife through my actions and attitude, all without hardly seeing her much.
I wish I could tell you that I have done an amazing job, and have been the perfect husband and father, but that would not be true. I have really struggled at times. I have lost my temper with my kids. I have grumbled and gotten bitter some evenings. And I have wanted to quit. But at the same time, I have learned how to be a better dad and a better husband. And I won’t quit. I won’t back down.
For better or worse…
For richer or poorer…
In sickness and in health…
For as long as we both shall live.