Monday, December 30, 2013

"Which team are you on?"

   Four years.  Tonight the balloon lady at a popular "kids eat free" night asked Etienne how long he had been home.  I hate answering that question.  It's so long.  It's as long as the Olympics cycle, it's a presidential term.  It's a lifetime.  And it's such a horrible answer to how long my son has been home.
     Four years should be long enough, right?  Surely, the majority of this kid's memories are of his parents loving on him.  He can't readily spit out kinyarwandan and he no longer hugs strangers.  So things are cool than?  Hardly.
     I reexamined vigilant last post.  The other battle that we've seen more than ever is argumentative, blatant "You are wrong and I'm not" behavior.  Lemme explain.  At lunch time I gave everyone a choice of soup or a sandwich.  Etienne requested a cold sandwich.  I let him help make it.  Cold cuts, cheese, chilled mayo (d'uh).  I set it in front of him.  He touched it.  Then he said, "That's not really cold. I'll have soup."   Or when he snapped all of his brother's glow-in-the-dark necklaces, then screamed "I DID NOT BREAK IT. I SNAPPED IT."  Then there was the "I didn't punch Zeke, I smacked him."  Etc, etc.  All. Day. Long.
     I guess I am complaining.  I know, I know.  He's not breaking furniture or putting holes in drywall. ("Kara, he's so much better then he was a year ago").  A year ago, he never screamed at me.  A year ago he did not find every little fight, argument or literal interpretation of my words.  A year ago, I didn't have this little fear sneaking in that one day he will get too mad at me.
     Tonight we hit a breaking point.  I know that the lack of strict routine during holiday break is difficult for most families ("It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....and mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again..."). My son had decided to get himself out of the tub without washing and pushed me away as I tried to turn him back again.  I reminded him that I needed to see him scrub himself.  He argued that he could do it himself and he already did (he hadn't).  It escalated from there.  He screamed and pushed me.  A lot.  He's really strong.  I lifted him back into the tub to just scrub the stinky parts, then let him scream.  I had to close the door and leave.  As my wise hubby says, to not engage him.  Later, I returned and I tried to remind him that it's harder to make good choices when we are tired.  More screaming that he's not tired.  More pushing me.  So I left him.  I told him if he wasn't tired, tonight I wouldn't make him go to bed.
     It's the least attached parenting choice I could have made.  I know it.  My other kids needed me to read and snuggle and pray with them.  So we did our thing and he did his own thing in his room.  Later, I snuck in and I could hear him praying "I don't want to be on sin's team."  As I type that, I cry all over again.  I went to my son and I laid my head on his chest and I sobbed.  He cried too (this is really, really good).  He didn't apologize.  That's okay.  I told him I was afraid when he got angry, that he is stronger than me.  I told him that no matter how mad he gets, no matter how big and strong he is, I won't stop chasing him.  I can't stop chasing his heart.  I told him that even if he never, ever trusts me in my lifetime, God has bound us to one another.  We prayed together for a long time.  I asked him if next time, when we started to fight, if we should have a code word.  He suggested asking him which team is he on? when he is yelling.  So that is our plan for now.
     I am not here to complain.  I am here to share for the other parents out there.  It has been four years.  Four years feels like a lifetime and only a moment.  Click here to a read a professional's explanation of RAD; because sometimes we have beautiful, healthy days.  And sometimes we have ugly, long long weeks.
      I am not looking for pity or a casserole.  I just want to explain this healing, it's a long road.  There is a song, originally by John Mark McMillan, that has become me and E's lifesong:

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh

Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us

     So tonight I am laying next to E on his floor.  I've read some verses of Isaiah to him, our own little tradition in these four years.  And I think of all the mamas in the bible.  Hannah.  Sarah.  Women that waited and waited and waited on the Lord for their child.  I thought that I had quit waiting for my E to be mine four years ago, when I first held him in my arms.

Monday, December 16, 2013


VIG-I-LANT: alertly watchful especially to avoid danger

VIG-I-LANCE: 1. the act, state or quality of     being vigilant

            2. the abnormal state or condition of being unable to sleep 

I've been wanting to share about vigilance for a long time now.  It's the perfect word to describe my E; the way he carries himself throughout the day, how he appears when he with a group or even his family, and absolutely how he looks when he is "sleeping" at night.
We've been especially vigilant lately because we've had a birthday, Thanksgiving and now the holiday season.  The fun Christmas activities, changes in routine and even sounds, smells and sights send lots of little ones into an oblivion.  For my E, all the "fun" equates to lousy RAD behavior, lack of sleep, and crazy uncoordinated large motor skills (he fell down a flight of stairs TWICE Saturday, he fell UP THE STAIRS yesterday. Thank God he is made of rubber.).  
Hearing the word vigilant, I used to envision a poor teenage babysitter, late at night, getting prank calls and being hypersensitive to the creaks and moans of the house.  Or maybe the gal walking alone through an abandoned parking lot.  Then, about 2 years into living with it, I began to recognize that my son is  vigilant.  Sometimes it is to what everyone else in the room is putting in their mouth.  Other days, he's vigilant to every sentence that Ryan and I pass between us ("Mom! Wait! Did you just say that there will be whale at Sunday school tomorrow?").  It's super annoying and sad for us but for our boy, it has got to make him exhausted in general.  Think about how you feel at the end of a suspenseful movie.  The story has resolved and you naturally relax your muscles and exhale.  And feel pretty tired, right?  
The part that gets me is that my E is a kid.  He's never seen a horror movie.  He's never left alone and no one has left him out of anything in four years.  Yet still.  Before my E came home, he had the experiences and visceral emotions to shape him to be alert.  On standby.  Ready for fight or flight.  All the time.  Yuck.  How can that not break my heart?  
It's just a word, not a label.  A window into his actions, if you will.  So when you see my son in the coming days, give him some grace.  He's asking what you just drank because he wants a drink too.  If you hear him interrupting and pushing his way in, he doesn't want you to forget him.  When you see him rubbing his eyes with his fists and falling down all over the place, don't forget that last night he hit his head on the wall , wet the bed, then awoke before the sun.  
I am trying to remind myself of this too.  When I want to hit him for dumping water on Molly's friends or sneaking into the bathroom when I'm peeing, I will phone a friend for prayer.  This isn't his fault despite how long it has been.  As much as we tell him over and over and over again that he is home.  He has a family.  Forever.  There aren't words to reason away fear of being hurt, both physically and emotionally.  You can't rationalize with someone that has been wounded.  That's that whole "actions speak louder than words" thing.  
So I tried something new last night when I was tucking him in.  I made him repeat after me.
"My mommy and daddy love me."  Repeat. As he said the words, I squeezed him tight and prayed that God would deliver him now.
"No matter what I do, my family won't ever leave me." Repeat, kisses, hugs, pray. Repeat. 
"I'm not an orphan. I am a child of the one true King."  Repeat, hug, squeeze, pray. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We're not that into the Elf...

     Reader warning:  No judgement, promise? Do not take offense to the following true story.  If your kids are into this new tradition, I am super excited for you.  We are not.
     Sometimes I feel like I am on the Truman Show or that at any minute a TV crew will pop up from behind my couch and yell "Gotcha!"  Our day to day life reminds me that God clearly has a sense of humor.  If I take a step back, I can laugh at the absurdity too.  This is follow up to several recent discussions regarding the Elf on a Shelf business.
     This morning, over smoothies and peanut butter toast, goes something like this.  Zeke says (in his Barry White kinda voice).
"Mom.  Most of the time we aren't really really good.  And we don't have an Elf like the kids at school.  So I don't think that Elf really works or he would totally be here.  He is really scary mostly.  Like he wants to hurt me."  (He stole that line from the movie Elf)
     Everyone then agrees that the Elf on a Shelf is scary and Molly tells the boys that the Elf wasn't around when she "was a kid."  I made them promise not to ruin the Elf thing for all the kids that they know and they also had to promise on their remaining Halloween candy that they would not tell other kids that the Elf wants to hurt them.  Blake decided that ultimately it would cause many kids to have new nightmares and we "do not want to be the cause of scary toy dreams."  By the time we left for school, the Elf we were discussing had taken on more of a Chucky-meets-Babes in Toyland role.  Yikes.
    It gets better.  My kid, the one that just tried to walk naked out in the hallway while the neighbor girls were here, then proceeded to attempt sneaking his to football helmet to school, says
"Aren't we supposed to be good because it makes God happy anyway?"
     Oh. My. Heart.  Sometimes he is listening to me!  Holy awesome.  My same kid that says he will be a preacher (Step 1: Do not get kicked out of Sunday school) just gets the Big Stuff.  And that's really all that matters in the end.  I am ever grateful for these glimpses of glory and the humor that gets laced into it.
PS I swear that I have never, ever shared that I am convinced that the Elf is a serial killer.  Obviously, my kids are brilliant.