Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Under Control

I realized that I have hit a snag in my parenting lately, resorting too quickly to using a harsh tone, snipping at the kids, not making efforts to plan fun things for them like I used to. I didn't come to this realization until my husband left town for 8 days, leaving us on our own.

Spending time in 2 Corinthians, I came across this verse: "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;" (2 Cor. 5:14). I stopped at the first phrase: "For the love of Christ controls us".

Lately, I have been controlled more by my schedule and the push to work more hours, keep up, shuttle kids to soccer, put together a worship set, etc., etc., etc. Having Greg gone several times this month, the last trip being more lengthy, forced me to pause. As I slowed down my pace, I began to notice people around me.

When the love of Christ controls us, we become noticers instead of doers. It isn't that we stop working or serving, but rather a radar goes up. My radar had been on the fritz for some time. Noticing had ceased. If my neighbor watered her flowers and I was in the backyard, it was a quick wave and dash back into the house, not a conscious choice to linger, ask about her day and truly care about hearing her response. I had also stopped noticing details with my children-- and that one was the most frightening to me.

When I ignore small gestures and details, I miss their silent invitations into their world. "Tell me about your picture! Who did you play with at recess today? What do you like best about playing soccer?"

If love is controlling my choices, my behavior, the pattern of my thoughts, the result is going to be less selfish, less rushed, less snippy, more in tune with the fruit of the spirit. If I am pushing for family devotion time right before bed, rushing them around and then barking at them to be quiet and listen, chances are, they aren't going to have a good feeling linking mom to hearing God's Word. It defeats the purpose. I know that His Word doesn't return void, but man, there can be some real baggage to carry through life when you've heard it from an impatient person lacking compassion because of sheer exhaustion-- making you feel like you're one of the reasons she's tired and worn out.

This week I listened more to my kids and talked less, did more with my kids and worried less, spent less money and invested a little more time with them. The result? I had the most peaceful week with the least amount of fighting among my children than I have experienced in a long time. I feel as though I have been hypocritical in my parenting, hoping that throwing some Bible verses at them before bed will sink in, without following up by leading in a patient, loving example.

Greg arrives back at home tonight and the routine will change yet again. I want to hang onto the week and a half the kids and I have had and keep my tone patient and keep myself quieter as I listen and ponder what they have to say. So if you ask me for a favor this week and the answer has to be "no", just try to understand I'm going to attempt to continue the balance and focus more on who lives on Douglas Street.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In honor of autism awareness

That Saturday morning in October had been wonderful. I went rummaging with a friend and spent hours just laughing, bumming around town, and being responsible for no one. It felt like high school again. We planned to go to the pumpkin patch at 10 with friends, so I needed to grab groceries after my morning of sailing carefree around town. Greg was getting out of the shower when I told him I needed to leave for the store. I could have waited, but I didn't want to. So often I feel the needs of my family are thrust upon me when I am least capable, or ready to assume the responsibility. “Now?” He asked.
            "Yes, now," I thought with a huffy sigh. I knew it wasn't fair, but I wanted to go now. I didn't want to run late on meeting our friends and knew the trip would just take a few minutes.
            I ran to the store, just two blocks away, and frantically grabbed the chips and pop in order to make it home in time for our outing. Turning onto our street fifteen minutes later, I saw the figures of a man and child walking hand in hand. My heart stopped when I neared. I pulled the van over and stopped next to them. Greg looked at me. There wasn't accusation or anger, but just exhaustion. "Is everything ok?" I asked. He covered his face with his hand and began to sob. I didn't ask any more questions; I knew what had happened. When a spouse faces something so incredibly horrific in the absence of the other, it becomes unfair to even ask questions or probe for details. So I didn't.
            Moments after I had left the house, Brenna had taken advantage of the moment while Greg was in the bathroom and had promptly opened the front door, walked outside alone and left Sam and Emily in the doorway, sucking their thumbs and watching her wander away. In the few minutes I was gone, Greg had paged me at the grocery store while I loaded groceries in the parking lot in oblivion, called the police and had taken off running down our street, calling Brenna’s name. He and I both knew she wouldn’t answer to her name, in fact may run from her name being called, but the instinct in every parent is to search loudly and frantically. Several minutes later, he had found her several houses down the street, in the backyard, looking at a neighbor’s dog.
            Statistics show that 80% of marriages between couples with a special needs child end in divorce. I believe it is true. There is something so raw and draining at times like this that it appears laughable that this relationship is meant to anchor the entire family. How do you become stable enough for anyone to hold onto when this sort of terror is never more than a moment of distraction away? It's no one's fault when Brenna runs from the house, simply caught up in a mission of finding a puppy in someone's backyard. And that is perhaps the sting. There is no one to blame. This is simply life and Brenna doesn't know any better.
            Brenna is unmoved by her Daddy's choked voice and tears that he quickly wipes away with a closed fist. Has she noticed him crying? Does she even care? I don't know. It's hard to say.
            At a conference in Bloomington a few years back, a mother commented that she didn't understand why people were devastated when finding out their child had autism. She was thrilled with her son, exactly as he was. I found that that statement completely psychotic. Who wishes for a life like this? For a child who is so prone to danger and unaware of consequences? I don't wish for a different personality for Brenna, but at these moments, I would give anything for her not to have a disability. I no longer care about the semantics of language and "special needs" or putting the child before the named challenge. This is a moment of my life that is hard, and some unnamed force is responsible for it. Proper language becomes ridiculous at a moment like that.  I want to scream, "Forget the details of the label! Just help her! Help me."
            She's sleeping peacefully in her bed tonight, unaware that her 15 minutes of roaming the neighborhood unhindered by parental supervision changed my life forever. There is a weight on my shoulders and a responsibility that won't be easily lifted. There will forever be a constant scanning and awareness—a counting of heads and urgency to continually do so. I suspect Greg may feel the same, though neither of us wants to voice it. I don't know what the answer is to this question that is so hazy. Psalms tells me to "cease striving" and I wish I knew how. When I try to do that though, my daughter gets lost and it feels like my family will fall apart.