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Parenting is difficult, juggling empathy and direction, firmness and gentleness, clinging and releasing, taking control and standing by. It takes the wisdom of Solomon, the insight of Mary, the patience of Job, the determination of Deborah, the strength of David, the compassion of Dorcas, the faith of Abraham, and the selflessness of Noah’s wife.

When a child has a chronic and/or serious mental health disorder, the challenge of parenting multiplies exponentially. In A Day in the Life, Bev Roozeboom joins fellow parents of children with serious mental illnesses on this journey. Some chapters cover painfully familiar territory including chaos, disappointment, grief, suffering, stigma, and fear.

Those who travel this road likely feel isolated. As other parents talk about their children’s athletic and academic accomplishments, who would want to say, “My son experiences such severe anxiety that he leaves his room in the basement only to see his therapist and his doctor?" Others may know that this couple’s son is “struggling,” but few want to hear a strange (to their ears) tale about traveling through the dark wood. So the couple stays quiet.

Refreshingly, A Day in the Life invites readers to join company not only with Roozeboom’s own family, but with many other families as well. The author spent several years interviewing and collecting the stories from many families who find themselves accidental companions on an unwanted voyage.

Knowing that one is not alone may help hope glimmer. Besides the chapters noted above, others survey terrain such as calling, the compassion of Jesus, value and worth, and “treasures unearthed from darkness.” In addition, the same rhythm of each chapter provides a comforting liturgy: “A Glimpse Inside,” “Gazing Up,” “Additional Scripture to Meditate on,” a prayer, and “Going Deeper—Getting Personal” which invites readers to journal their own reflections on the chapter’s topics. The written prayers may be especially helpful for weary parents who find themselves at a loss for words to pray.

Willing to wade into difficult waters, Roozeboom touches on tough subjects other parents raised with her including financial challenges, marital tensions, isolation, sibling struggles, injuries sustained by violent behaviors, and judgment by fellow church members. Her subtitle summarizes accurately the hope and lament that reverberate throughout: “A glimpse into the chaos—and hope—of families with children living in the grip of chronic mental health disorders.”

Even hope will only take you just so far when dark days stretch into months and years for parents and the children they love who struggle mightily. For Roozenboom, caring for Kyle has become part of her calling. One evening she cried out to God in anger after a “horrible episode with our son.” She had her own “little rant” with God: “Why won’t You help us? Don’t You care? Kyle didn’t ask for this illness—why won’t You show him Your compassion?” Then she sensed God ministering to her spirit through his Spirit with this message, “I do care. I show My compassion to Kyle in many ways. One of the ways I show My compassion to Kyle is through you—through your actions. Those who love and follow Me are My hands and feet in this world. I very intentionally made you Kyle’s mom, and you are to show him My love and care. I made YOU to show My compassion to Kyle.” (p. 60)

When stresses hang heavily on the lives of parents and children, many parents may not be ready to affirm a sense of calling as parent of a child with a serious mental illness. A common theme for many parents in the book is their feelings of inadequacy for the task, but for Bev Roozeboom, that sense of call included hard work to write an honest and empathic book that many will find helpful.

A Day in the Life: a glimpse into the chaos—and hope—of families with children living in the grip of chronic mental health disorders. Copyright 2018 by Bev Roozeboom. 

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