Monday, August 8, 2016

back up

When my children were tiny babies, I was terrified to cut their finger nails. Absolutely terrified. Now, 17 years later, I am riding in the passenger seat of my mini van, with my teenage son at the wheel. And let me just say, that I would feel less anxiety if you were to blindfold me, force me to do a shot of tequila, hand me ten newborn babies, and a rusty nail clipper, and say, "clip away!"

Nobody tells you about this when you are thinking about having children.
The loss of control, the absolute fear for their safety, how the fragility of their life can paralyze you.
You do not hear about it.

And the thing is, my kid is a good driver. Confident, and careful.  But still. Sitting there  next to him, I have found more places in that mini van to hang onto, and have hit that imaginary brake more times than you can count.  I will not even answer my phone, for fear of distracting him. Of course, when I yell, "Slow down!" grabbing the ceiling and stretching my legs out like I am about to stop us from hitting a brick wall with my incredible legs of steel,  I end up completely panicking him; I become his worst distraction of all.

I am not good at this.

I have seen more teens on the side of the road, next to their smashed up car, speaking into their cell phone (calling mom and dad, no doubt) and I want to throw up. Really.  I want to pull over, take their phone, say, "I see your kid in front of me and they are FINE" but excuse me now, because I am going to throw up."

They look like babies to me.  I remember sitting in Drivers Ed class with my son, looking at the young faces around me and thinking, "I do not want to be on the road with any of you!"

But time moves on and kids grow up and like it or not, it is their turn to drive.
There is no imaginary brake.
I do not have legs of steel.
I can throw up all I want.
It changes nothing.
Well, I'd be really skinny, I suppose.
But as far as the kids are concerned, it changes nothing.
Like it or not, they are ready to hit the road.
Actually, ready or not...they are going to hit the road.

It's funny, as a "former mommy blogger", to look back on those posts that really defined my life at that time. The diapers, the women at the park with the dirty looks, the kitchen messes, the long days that had no naps, the isolation, the feeling fat, wondering what my purpose was, wondering if I was good enough.  At the time, life was so hard. And yet, at the end of the day, I put my baby in pjs, that most likely had feet and an adorable animal print, rocked them and kissed them, and put them safely in bed. A bed with bars. And a tent. They could not get out.

Why don't we make beds like this for teenagers?

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed back up.
Because I can not get my teens to sleep in a crib.
Because I can not prevent them from getting in a car and driving away.
And because if I start throwing up on the side of the road, people will begin to talk about me.
And so now, when that worry starts to build up...when my mind starts to go in all the wrong, dark places that the devil hopes it will go, I call on back up.

I put together a team.
A team of Saints.
My own Super hero squad, if you will.
When the tears are too much and the anxiety sky high, I call out to them.
I give them my children.

Saint Sebastian, Saint Monica, Saint Augustine, Saint Therese, Saint Michael, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Joseph...blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati...these are just some of the ones I call on.  And of course, they are all lead by their Guardian Angels and our beautiful blessed Mother Mary.
And the best part?
They always show up.
And my teenagers? They may not know it, but they are there..and they are guiding them, and they are whispering to their hearts.
They think  that I have finally left them alone.
They think I am no longer pushing my ideas and my ways and my crazy Jesus talk in their faces...
but they are wrong.
I could not be any more present.
A mother who prays is a serious weapon.

You see, we have this cloud of witnesses.
They surround us.
They have shown us how to run the race. (Heb 12:1)
And our kids?
They are running a race that is faster, and more dangerous than the race you and I ran.
Their stress is higher, the world is louder, and we need to fight hard to get their attention.
We need back up!

How stupid am I to have been trying, all of these years, to help my children by my own strength?

My son takes his drivers test this week.
Most likely, he will have his drivers license by Friday.
I have asked my husband to take him, because I am too afraid.
But I can rest in peace at home, knowing that he does not ever go out on the road, or into this world, alone.
I will see to it that his car is filled.
He will be surrounded.

And no matter what.
No matter what bumps he hits and unfamiliar roads he takes.
No matter how many accidents, how many dents, how fast he goes or how lost he gets.
No matter who he drives with.
He will have back up.
He will run his race, he will persevere, and by the grace of God, he will finish well.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

a lot of broken

When his flip flop came off, and he could't brake, and he flew off of his scooter, flipped in the air, and fell smack on the hard pavement, you would think my first thought would be, "Are you okay?"

You would think.

My first thought?
"Why didn't you listen to me!!!????"
Because he didn't, you know.
I told him, more than once, "Do not ride your scooter in flip flops, you can get hurt."

He broke his collar bone that day he didn't listen to me.
It could have been worse.
I could have not insisted on the helmet.
There could have been a car.
He has lots of bones. They could have all broken.

I have spent a lot of time in waiting rooms this summer.
At the orthopedic.
At the pediatrician. Camp physicals and swimmers ear.
At the children's trauma clinic, our latest attempt at effective therapy for PTSD.
I have witnessed a lot of broken.

And I am sure that my reaction to my son flying in mid air, is not unlike God's, as He looks down on this broken world. As He looks down on me. Too stubborn to listen. Too caught up in myself to do what he says. How often have I put myself in danger, gotten into trouble, flown and flipped with no self control, only to land smack on the ground, broken and bruised? How many times does God, our Father who knows best, shout at us, "Why didn't you listen to me?"

But I have witnessed a broken much deeper these days.
And that broken?
That kind of broken requires more than the orthopedic or pediatrician.
That kind of broken?
That kind of broken is screaming for a much deeper healing.

Our weekly appointment at the trauma clinic was changed yesterday, from early evening our usual time, to mid afternoon.  The evenings are quiet. We are the only ones there. To be honest, I always found it to be a little strange and wondered if our clinician was there all day, all alone. It made me kind of sad, to tell the truth.  But yesterday, mid day, the waiting room took on a whole new picture.

Filled with children.
Now, the room is small and depressing, with tattered books and used blocks and a plastic table and chair in desperate need of a lysol wipe.
In fact, I had been so struck by the lack of friendly decor and inviting toys, that I took it upon myself a few weeks ago to clear off our own book shelves and donate them to the metal shelf that stood by the wall. And so when I say "filled with children", truly, there were only about four.

We are at the children's trauma clinic, however.
And so four?
Four is just about four too many.
And I dare you to sit in that room with those four and not wonder, "What happened to you, sweet child?"
I dare you to sit in that room of four and not want to hold them and whisper, "Are you okay?"

On an old cell phone, an exhausted woman with torn shoes, and a large styrofoam cup, spoke, "I am the foster mom...checking has been wild...out of control..."
And then a vibrant young female clinician bounced in, oohing and aahhhing over her waiting client, in a black dress with floral print, and her hair in curls. "You look so pretty today! You better go for a walk at the mall or something looking so good!" And the girl, arms wrapped around her tight, as if she was holding herself together, literally...holding her pieces together...just rocked back and forth,  back and forth. She gave a half smile.

I sat with my raspberry and lime seltzer and Magnificat.
My husband with his greek yogurt and laptop.
And all I could think was, "Dear God, how did we get here?"

But here we are.
Because sometimes our broken pieces are not a result of our own stupidity.
Sometimes our broken pieces are the result of something we never had any control over.
And because blows to our bones and knives to our hearts are not just for the the poor, the ones with bad judgement, the people who live over there, the prostitute or tax collector.  Suffering comes no matter your race, religion, or sexual preference.
And it has come to us.
Us, with the raspberry lime seltzer and greek yogurt.
And I would really do much help to myself if I could stop wondering how and why, and simply accept and look for the grace.
Because my son...he is there with us...we are here for him...and the fact that we are here, alive...that, my friends, is grace upon grace.

And you know, when I saw the x ray of my sons collar severely broken, how disjointed, how unnatural it made me sick. To see the pain, to see the was almost too much. That x ray? It looked just like the children's trauma clinic waiting room. You could see the broken, you could see how wrong...and as much as you hated to look at it, you could't help but stare.

As I looked up from my Magnificat, I noticed a young boy, in his batman shirt and bandana on his head, reach for a super hero book off of the dirty metal shelf, sit down, and begin to read. It was a book I had brought from my home. And while I do not know what is broken in that young batman, it brought some light to my heart to see that out of my own brokenness, I was able to share a moment of joy and possible escape with another. As I told a friend just days ago, "without my own suffering, how could I have compassion for another?"  

And I thought about leaving my Magnificat on that metal shelf.
Because the grace I have been soaked in is the truth that no matter how great these clinicians are (and they are G R E A T), without knowing and accepting the comfort of our one true healer, our broken pieces do not stand a chance. Until we invite Christ into our wounds, (and by the way, He is already there) we remain fractured and torn, reaching for books on super heroes, hoping for the cure, longing to have our bones fill up the gap and fix what is so wrong.

My son's collar bone is healing.
We saw the new x ray.
And it was disappointing, at first, because to us, it looked no different.
But to the Dr? He was pleased.
"Look can see right there..the bone is filling in...that gap is closing...he will be just fine."