Thursday, May 17, 2012

pondering finitude

Brennan Manning says, "If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” 

So I won't...

I've been dog-sick this week.  Let's start with that. Not as an excuse, but as an honest reference point.  Yesterday was my first day back to normal routine, with nausea and fatigue still brewing just beneath the surface.

It began as we left the boys' school following afternoon pickup.  She stomped the floor of the car and, from two rows back, threw her headphones at me.  Yes, while I was driving.  She'd torn the felt from one of the ear coverings.

"It was loose!" she screamed, before I could say a word.

I kept my cool.

"Did you ask someone to help you with it?"

"No!" she growled back.

"Okay... well, I'm driving right now, we'll see what we can do with this when we get home."

And that's when Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk.  With the first yell, stomp, and fist-into-the-car-wall I reminded her that by choosing to throw a fit she was forfeiting her freedom once we arrived home.  I reminded her that she could choose right now to calm herself.  I reminded her that I would help her if she'd let me.

She didn't.

I thought about pulling over, but we'd been through this before; getting out of the car only extends and exacerbates things.  And the kids were starving.  Better to pick the shortest route and get home. Stat.

Things only escalated as the miles passed.  The other three grew increasingly (and understandably) miserable.  I tried to make light.  We all rolled our windows down and stuck our heads out (well, except me) and sang.  It didn't put a dent in the noise she was making.  She was flailing her body into their seats.  She was throwing things.

Then ... it happened.  Something I'd long feared.

She hit her sister in the back of the neck.


That's when I realized how finite I am. That I do, indeed, come to an end.

I swore at her.  With a growl and a volume level I didn't even know I was capable of.  They were all wounded by it.

I pulled over and weighed my options.  Sitting her in the front beside me wasn't one - not without a straightjacket, anyway.  Last thing we needed was her grabbing hold of the emergency brake or the gear shift.  Besides, I didn't trust myself to touch her or even get near her.  No - the third row was the best place for her.

Still-crying-injured sister moved beside me.  Brother (who had been beside me) moved in front of Hulk.  I instructed that if she so much as laid a finger on him OR his seat, he was to turn around and punch her as hard as he could.

Brother smiled and smacked his fist into his palm.  Hulk screamed louder.

What was I thinking??  I won't hit her myself, but I instruct him to??  The brother who has been itching for the chance to pummel her, but has never done so because I taught him that violence isn't the answer?  Somewhere inside I knew I was screwing this up.  BAD.

The other three were trying hard to ignore her incessant noise, and not make me any madder.  I could sense this, and I hated it for them.  They didn't ask for this... they didn't deserve this.

"Let's get ice cream!" I announced. "You deserve it for having to ride all the way home with THAT going on!"

Hulk knew she wasn't getting any and exploded even more.  Inside, I was torn between a sick satisfaction and a keen awareness that I was making things worse.

Birkdale.  Ritzy ditzy shopping center in the heart of ticky tacky suburbia.  (Seriously? Who brings Hulk to Birkdale?)

Three went inside to make their choices, while one put on quite the sidewalk show out front.

"Sit here while I go in and pay." I directed her to a rocking chair in front of the store.  I'd have given anything to have had cash on me in that moment.  Store clerks don't take kindly to 11 year olds using their mother's debit card.

She picked up the rocking chair and slammed it down onto the sidewalk.  I wanted to do the same thing to her. I literally thought about calling the police to take her away.  Or an ambulance to shoot her with a sedative.  Somebody.  Anybody who would MAKE. THIS. STOP.

Somehow I managed to pay, then the two of us got back in the car while the other three sat outside enjoying their treats.  Watching them, I broke down.  I started to wonder things... regret things ... things I usually don't let myself wonder or regret.  I tried to stop myself.  I tried to picture the tiny helpless five year old who crawled into our lap that first day.  Tried to imagine her wallowing away in an Eastern European institution.  Starving to death.  Unloved.

But I couldn't.  Not this time.  I couldn't will away the bad feelings.  I looked at the other three sitting peacefully on their bench, and wished with all that was in me that I was sitting next to them instead of stuck in the car ... with her.

"I have to use the bathroom!" The first intelligible words she'd formed in forty-five minutes.

"No. Wet your pants for all I care. You can clean the seat up after, too!"

Yes.  I said that.  I hated myself now.  Hated myself for such evil thoughts and evil words and evil deeds.  Hated myself for not being a better mother to her the past three years.  For not being able to prevent us getting to this point.

Her yells turned to whimpers.  She really needed to go.

And so I softened.  I sent her in to a bathroom, and she came out calmer.  She'd either exhausted herself or the urgency of needing to pee triggered something in her brain - some awareness that she is in fact  human after all.

"I'm sorry I hurt my sister," she muttered.

I tried to make myself think of Bruce Banner.  "Did I hurt anybody?" he'd asked, after 'coming to'.  I tried to muster sympathy.  "Love always forgives". I tried to remember.

On the ride home, the others were glad to see she was calmer.  They wanted us all to be happy again.  They'd let it go.  Just like I'd taught them.  They'd recovered.

But could I?

I walked to the back deck with an insurance card and a phone.  I got a list of doctors.  People who can help.

Because she needs help.  Serious help.

After dinner, I tucked her into bed early.  I sang to her of the steadfast mercies of the Lord, that are new every morning.  It didn't take her long to fall asleep.  I wasn't surprised.  How anyone could keep that up for that long is beyond my comprehension.

I suggested Daddy join the rest of us for America's Funniest Home Videos, which turned out to be a huge hit.  They all laughed.  They needed to laugh.

But I was glad the room was dark.  I couldn't laugh.

Because I need help, too.

I'm finite.  I come to an end.

Anybody feel that?


Anonymous said...

I have found that parenting challenges grow me often more than my children. For in finding a solution for their struggles I am forced to confront the flaws in my character and work on me. If never presented with a challenge I would be forever stuck in the conception that I can do this well and never realize that I have much to learn. Just because I have aged does not necessarily mean that I have mastered all of the skills I need for life. It reminds me of the the song "He's still working on me" And as a parent I realize he is using my kids as a teaching aid.

Milena said...

I just wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts, and that I hope you will get the help you need!

Calamity Anna said...

This was intense. I hope she will be able to learn much better coping mechanisms!