It has been a long night. Maybe it has been a long week. The preacher and I have spent the last hour hopping back and forth from the beds of our two older girls. At this point I would welcome the throw up bug, the one where your child is so weak they lay in your arms as you feed gatorade and motrin into their sore little bodies. Instead we have been trying to calm each girl off the ledge of sibling rivalry and well, insanity. It happened somewhere in the great abyss of the upstairs, an argument over which movie to watch. Obviously, as the laws of the jungle state, survival of the fittest. Since the oldest mastered netflix first, her movie got watched. Not one to be a shrinking violet, Anna has taught herself the technology as well but can never seem to get her hands on the remote. She feels anger, outrage even, and swindled. She is at the mercy of a gatekeeper, one who is capable and a bit bossy.
First came the “reporting” from both sides, objective of course if you think the Fox News channel simply provides facts. It arrived in the kitchen where the grown ups were finishing a balanced and home-cooked meal of baked chicken and mashed potatoes. I was feeling good, successful of my day’s accomplishments. I ran with a friend this morning and solved our world’s problems as the sun rose. I passed two exams for my lacrosse referee job and pure barre instructor certification. I went to the elementary school and helped 125 kids in the running club train for our upcoming 5k. We ran two miles which is a lot. There was not a lot of joy or freedom or “I need this” going on in their heads. Mostly they thought of why they needed to walk. But it is a start and I felt good for motivating my herd without getting frustrated. And I had a meal to share with our neighbors one whose spouse had to work late and the other who was feeling under the weather.
But once the neighbors left, the sheer hate came and it poured from their mouths like venom through a snake bite. We were beyond a teaching moment or talking it out or finding a solution or even apologizing. It simply had to end. Cheyney had long since fallen asleep on the sofa and been carried to bed. She is blissfully unaware of the role she played in our family tonight. But according to Anna she is partly to blame. “The baby who gets everything because she is cute and she cries!” ”And Coco gets everything because she is smart and the oldest!” “And I am stuck in the middle with nothing!” Oh how my heart breaks. It is textbook behavior and yet no one has a solution for me yet.
Anna’s latest phrase has been “I wish I had a car so I could run myself over. I hate my life”. She is 6. What is it going to be when she is 16? I told her I loved her anyway. I listened, hugged, touched, loved, snuggled, and cried. I prayed. None of it worked. I remember her newborn days when she would wail like her fingernails were being ripped. It wasn’t reflux or colic or sickness. It was discomfort. We would have her sleep on her back swaddled/unswaddled or in her carseat or on her stomach (forgive me Lord and pediatrician) or in the swing. Mostly she slept on someone else’s stomach for the first six months of her life. And while I would wake 97 times during the 3 hour window only to have my neck stuck in a 45 degree angle to the right, I did it. During those newborn days we would do anything to make her happy.
I wish the fix was so easy today. I wish I could take her pain and make it mine, trade a few hours of sleep for a crick in the neck that could be ironed at the chiropractor. I would bear it, gladly. Because taking on a child’s ache is nothing compared to watching one suffer and not knowing how to make it go away. As a parent you feel it double: as a memory of your own childhood hurts and as a parent wondering where it went wrong.
I can only imagine what puberty will be like: boyfriends, cliques, broken hearts, self image, outfits, tryouts, who got to drive the car more this week and such. There are a million minefields I am not even aware of yet. If ever there was a perfect setup for Lent, my kids provided it tonight. No matter how hard I work or how much I love them or how cushy of a bubble I provide, these three miracles are people in the real world and this place often forgets that. We forget we are created perfectly and loved unconditionally. I know my girls cannot understand I love them each in their own way because -and in spite- of their decisions. I love them equally but very differently. This is how God must love each of us right? Fiercely and with conviction, even though sometimes it feels like God loves the people with the easy lives more.
I closed the door to Anna’s room tonight feeling like a failure. How on earth am I going to keep this wonderful creature safe long enough to learn nobody can take away who she is and how much I love her? Tomorrow will come, there will be swollen eyes and headaches from crying. There will be new chances to show love and feel comfort and start over. May angels visit her dreams and mine tonight.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30