A forewarning about this post before you read it: What I am about to write is not pretty. You may not want to hear this. These are honest thoughts and feelings. If you are worried that you will look at me differently if I say some blunt and hard to hear things, then this is your opportunity to turn back now, and I promise no harm will come to you.
Seriously. How hard is it? How hard is it to put your clothes on? How hard is it to eat without having food up to your elbows? How hard is it to NOT bang your utensil into the table over and over during a meal? How hard is it to wash your body? How hard is it to wipe when you use the bathroom? Comb your hair? How hard is it to pee in the toilet and not spray all over? Not to smear toothpaste all over counter, floor, sink? Get in the car? Get out of the car? Put on your seat belt? NOT RUN IN THE ROAD?! Eat dinner? Not bounce from seat to floor? To not kick constantly?Is it really that hard? These are the basic fundamentals of a human life. These are the basic things that people do to maintain themselves. Why is it nearly impossible?! And why do 3 tasks even we walk through it alongside them take 45 minutes+?
Every. Single. Day. It takes several minutes to even hours to do the basic things. I mean the BASIC things. On top of the extended quality time spent doing the basic necessary tasks needed to exist in our western world. This is all before we even touch on a vital factor of bonding and learning to love and trust. And if, for even three minutes, we leave our sideline job of reminding, instructing, encouraging, and inspecting, then they are pulled so far off task that it takes even more time to finish these simple tasks. Life is near impossible most week days. God himself help us if we have to take a bathroom break. In the amount of time it takes to USE THE BATHROOM we can spin into utter chaos and anarchy daily and with little to no chance of recovery DAILY.
My words cannot even sum up the gravity of the situations Ryann and I are forced to endure on a daily basis. Every single simple task has to be supervised. We get home from work. We pick up the kids. we figure out how to feed them. After their yelling, running, hitting, and complete and utter defiance, we finish eating. After that, we enter in a similar fight with reading and homework. By then we have to rush showers and try to get them at least somewhat ready for bed. And try hard to find even couple of moments that aren’t negative where we can try to foster a relationship and ultimately family bonding. Some nights we run out of time. As in most nights. How do we run out of time when we have three hours?
*****Just to give you a snapshot last night we ran a time and had a girl that was in complete and utter survival mode over doing a simple task of bathing. There was no yelling from us, there was no convincing her to do it, there was no ability to have her see the value in doing that last night. We ended up getting her wipe down her legs, her arms & her face and her neck which should’ve been a 10 minute task it took 45 minutes to even convince her to do that. Nothing about this is easy.
Is there some surprise to the evening schedule? No. There is no surprise. It is always almost exactly the same. Furthermore, we go out of our way to explain in detail every evening and every morning what is going to happen and when. There are no mysteries and no surprises. And yet, it is a complete surprise that we are going to have dinner at the same time. It is a complete surprise that we have to do homework and have to actually wash the literal dirt off of our bodies.
How hard is it? How hard is it NOT TO THROW EVERYTHING THAT EVEN COMES NEAR OUR HANDS?! Can anything, and I mean anything besides a full cup of water be placed down instead of thrown? Apparently not. Why is it that even when we say, “let’s try that again without throwing.” it still takes a MINIMUM of three times before an object is placed somewhere instead of thrown?
How hard is it? How hard is it to GET IN THE CAR AND PUT YOUR SEAT BELT ON?! Why does it take a minimum of 10 minutes of laughing and running around to get you to sit down and buckle your seat belt? And then you have the audacity to hold down the door lock. Did I mention the constant fear of a child jumping in the driver’s seat and trying to drive the car while locking you out of it? Because yeah that happens pretty regularly.
How hard is it to sit in a chair? Why do we have a child on the floor every evening at dinner time from falling out of their chair? Furthermore, why does the table become an object to swing on, climb on, push, and lift off the ground whenever that chair is taken away? Can we just eat for ten minutes?
There is nothing easy about any of this. What do you do when you are in a restaurant and a child is shaking the entire table and won’t stop being loud? Take them out to the car? Don’t worry when you do that they run out of the restaurant and then find every one of the thousands of rocks to kick and throw at any random direction. All while smiling at you as they run away from you in a PARKING LOT FULL OF CARS. Why the defiance and insane uncontrollable behavior? Hearing how we can’t bother the poor victims in the booth next to us and we aren’t getting ice cream. That’s really all it takes. Sometimes (honestly, most of the time) it takes even less than that. Sometimes it takes nothing. Just a little bit of excitement and boredom.
What do you do when a child decides they don’t want to get in their car seat? Do you ask nicely and say please? Or do you bribe them? Good luck with that. They will get in their seat when they feel like it. But not soon enough to stop them from enraging their impatient sibling.
Have you ever sat in your car about to pick your kids up and had to give yourself a couple of minutes of breathing and praying because your anxiety spikes when you realize what you are about to endure? Have you ever been afraid of your children? There are times when we are truly afraid. We don’t know what they are going to do and say but we know any sudden hint of change could spark a mysterious and uncontrollable meltdown that won’t end until the time is up and the night is over.
I am going to be blatantly honest because people need to know. There is nothing easy about any of this. This is hard and it will reveal every single sliver of weakness in your soul. I truly love these kids, but there are times that I don’t want to be around them. I often don’t feel excited to spend time with them or pick them up from school. I get frustrated. I get to the point that I am actually mad at them and angry with them. I will often be giving them hugs and saying I love them when inside all I feel is rage and frustration. Inside I just want to scream in anger at the top of my lungs.
This has tested every single ounce of my love, compassion, perseverance, and patience. I now know that I am extremely prideful. Because when a child acts purposely defiant everything in me wants to boil over and show them who’s boss. When a child laughs as they punch and kick me I feel anger burning inside of me. Everything I want to do I can’t. I can’t yell, I can’t punish and I can’t spank them. a normal parenting response for some is spanking and we are not allowed to exercise this tactic. Even if we could, it would further their trauma and will not illicit any substantial results. None of these are even options for us. And everything I can do doesn’t really work. I just have to pretend to be happy and calm until the storm subsides. Meanwhile, I am trying to calm my own storm inside. It is a completely miserable feeling.
But we have to deal with our feelings. Ryann and I often have to tag team when we get to the boiling rage point. But sometimes Ryann isn’t home. And then I just have to take it. Other times, I am not home, and Ryann has to just take it.
Our night time discussions after the little bundles of joy have gone to sleep are often filled with our angers and frustrations. Sometimes our frustration has boiled over to the point that there are some choice words and vocabulary used in our speech. Yeah, we can pretend that it is better to just talk positive and not let any foul or ungodly language out of our mouth. But the truth is, those kids got their moment to lose control and then cool down. We didn’t. Those negative words and statements were already there in our minds, we just didn’t get to release them in front of a 5 and 8 year old at all. We can hold back but then we just hold on and this is a marathon, not a sprint.
How else do we handle all of this stress and frustration? Prayer. But honestly, usually we don’t pray enough. There is something about being in the trenches of temptation and frustration that makes it even harder to call on the redeemer who can carry us through. As I type I can see how ridiculous this is on paper. But it is the truth. We pray a lot but we should pray more and it is just hard. At the end of the day when I finally get a moment of rest, I don’t want to complain to God or call on God. I want to eat a rice pudding and watch a show way too mature for children. And the person next to me wants to eat a handful of candy and watch one with me. I want to eat dinner again since my anxiety level was so high at dinner that I could barely eat and now I am calm enough to actually taste the food and eliminate the hunger pains.
Ryann and I are constantly having to work together on this crazy journey and are constantly reminding each other that these kid’s behaviors that often needs correcting is not their fault. The difficulty with simple self care tasks is also not their fault. They are simply responding to their trauma, a trauma story that has been on repeat for 5 to 8 years. They have been trying to figure out the game of life when no consistent person has taught them the rules or the fundamentals. There are parts of their brains that have not had the chance to be opened up to be able to independently discern and function in a world beyond their immediate desires and perceived needs. As their counselor best put it, they are functioning in the right side of the brain and not the left side which discerns logical decision making even at their ages.
The truth is it is hard to show the love of Jesus. It is hard to love these kids like Jesus loves them. I honestly in my flesh don’t want to. But I know it is the only way to bring healing. I don’t mean love like saying and doing nice things. I don’t mean love like happy wishful thinking. That will get you through about 24 hours and then all of that juice is spent. No. I mean the kind of love Jesus had when the people he loved ripped his flesh off and hammered him to a rough cut splintered chunk of wood. I mean the unconditional, unstoppable, constant love that is more of a choice than a feeling. I mean the kind of love that loves when a child spits their dinner on the floor or slams their siblings limbs in a car door. I mean the kind of love that abandons all rights and privileges of not just being a parent, but of being a human being and instead smiling, offering a hug and saying “It hurts daddy when you punch him in the face, but I love you.” Christ’s sacrificial love is needed when I come home to hear all the horrible things a young boy has said and done to a mother he does not respect and instead of flipping out because of how my wife was unjustly treated and abused, I have to hold his hands, look into his eyes and say, “although it was not okay that you were purposely mean to momma Ryann for the past three hours, we love you very much and nothing will ever change that. And let’s work together on a plan for you to handle this better next time.”
So how hard is it? It’s unrelentingly hard. It is unendingly hard. It is hard for them and it is hard for us.