He swiftly exited from the building and his eyes darted around until he locked in on mine. Quickly turning, he ran to his teacher and pointed to me. She smiled and waved and released him into my care.
After school pick up has become my nemesis. In a matter of minutes, I am greeted by anxious children, curious to explore the world outside the confines of order and discipline. Some days, getting to the car is a twenty minute test of patience as their bodies live into all of what it means to be a child without an agenda.
This particular day however was shaping up differently than usual. My conversation was interrupted and without hesitation, I briefly reminded my son that I was talking and he needed to wait. Seconds went by and his frustration escalated until eventually I needed to end the conversation before a meltdown occurred in front of the school.
He pelted me with his questions but my answers were not what he wanted to hear. Before I knew it, we were sitting in our car in the school parking lot while a meltdown ensued. His door remained open as he kicked and screamed attracting curiosity and concern from those who passed by. He would not be contained and eventually he realized he was free to run and so he did.
Trying to allow him distance and space within the confines of safety, I drove behind him as he ran back to our house. Anxiety and fear fueled my racing mind until a small voice from the backseat broke through the silence. “This is why I never want kids, mom. They yell at you, don’t do what you tell them to do, and overall just cause problems.” Oh sweet boy, no. It isn’t supposed to look like this.
His nearly six year old self has experienced too much already. The depth of his questions are a daily reminder of the struggle he feels while navigating life. Questions like, “if God is in his body then why does my brother act that way?” “Why did God have to make feelings like disgust, sadness, and anger? Couldn’t he have just made us happy?”
His questions beg for answers but in my mind, an involved question is not to be met with a simple response. Most days his questions are an invitation to look past what is obvious, and instead go deeper to the aching in his heart.
From the outside looking in on our family, one can assess that we are an unpredictable crew. We are emotional, volatile, passionate, and expressive. The behavior that each one of us displays, is a direct reflection of what our body is processing at any given moment. This holds true for each and every one of us and yet some of us are able to hold it together when we are in the company of others.
What about those who are unable to “hold it together”? Can you enter the aching heart of the child melting down or the withdrawn teenager? What about the angsty young adult?
Our neighborhood as well as our entire country is demonstrating behavior everyday that is begging for understanding and connection.
How do we embrace and potentially love the predictably unpredictable?
My neighbor made the choice to actively learn how to love and care for our family this year, after observing the respite that a trusted friend offered by her presence in our home. She started with a simple text to say that she wanted to see how to better support us and that she’d love to brainstorm possible ideas. My heart jumped at the possibility of being able to experience reciprocity in this parenting journey.
During the course of the last few months, we have experienced laughter and tears, anger and explosions. Our kids have been able to explore friendships outside of the careful watch of their parents and they have blown it numerous times. We have asked for forgiveness and offered forgiveness daily, if not hourly. Respite, attachment, belonging, and joy fill pockets of our days and at times, it is just enough to keep of us moving forward in this messy and unpredictable journey. How different our story would be if not for someone’s willingness to risk discomfort.
Who are the individuals you find challenging in your community? Whose behavior startles you or, if you’re honest, scares you a little bit? Will you step outside of yourself to reach out to a family who makes you uncomfortable? You may be surprised to find out that they are not that different from you, after all.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by the relationships she holds as a wife, mom, and a physical therapist. Bethany, her husband and their boys returned to life in Texas after wandering off to the Midwest for a season. What she once pictured her life to look like has forever been changed by her two sons. Navigating this messy and beautiful path of parenting two children each with their own unique challenges, she finds grace and beauty in the gift of each moment.