Tuesday, April 07, 2009

post-traumatic parenting disorder

The adrenaline is gone, and the codeine is about to follow. My "good in a crisis" nature has gotten me through the worst of it, but has now abandoned me in the middle of melancholia with no more gas in my tank and miles to go before I'm out of the woods. Sleep is not coming easily, and it's not just the middle of the night dosings. It's the images. The sounds. The emotions. They won't let me be.

"I don't want to close my eyes, Momma," Bub sobbed repeatedly at the hospital. "I keep seeing my arm snap over an over again. I can't make it stop." After urging her for a while to capture her thoughts and try to focus them elsewhere, I took a different tactic. "Yep--you're going to see it for a while, Bub. It's okay. It can't hurt you again. It's okay."

I was wrong. My hope that in validating the struggle, the struggle would cease was misplaced. I know, because I can't make it stop, either. And it's keeping me up at night.

I close my eyes, and I see her coming toward me, her arm grotesquely mis-shapen, her eyes large with fright, her face red with fear and pain. I see her tears, I hear her voice, I feel her pain. Over. And over. And over. I see things I didn't even see--I see her fall, I see the arm snap, I see her screaming, I see what could have happened had God not protected her. I don't want to see any more.

Which is funny, because for years these have been the images that have played in my head from time to time as I've watched her at play, swinging and flipping and jumping. Images of falling, of twisting, of hurting. I don't bid them to come, but they come, just the same. And so when my eyes saw it for real, it become more than just a this could happen if she's not careful, if I don't protect her, if I don't teach her to have good judgement. It became a reality. And now it won't leave me.

Several people expressed surprise that anger was one of my initial reactions. Perhaps that was too strong, perhaps not. It is what it is. Because of her impulsive nature and passionate spirit, my daughter and I have talked ad nauseum about the need to think before she acts. She didn't fall off her bike. She climbed up on something she knew she shouldn't be on top of, and then tried to climb down it head first. She is a child, I know this. She will do stupid things. But I also know how I've drilled her to use the brain the good Lord gave her. For this very reason. For her. For me. For all of us. And so, when her first words were, "I knew I shouldn't have done it," I would be a bold-faced liar to deny the anger that rose up in me. Anger at all it would cost her. Anger at all it would cost us. Anger at all those words, spoken in vain. It's not pretty. But sometimes, life isn't pretty.

Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book For Parents Only, writes, "This is the stark truth: Short of locking our teenagers in their rooms day and night, there is almost no way to physically prevent them from doing what they want to do. And they know it." I considered this for days after reading it, and determined this is really the human condition. This is what we face as parents whether our child is six or sixteen. This is what we face when a spouse walks away. When a friend does the wrong thing. When we simply live our I-want-what-I- want-when-I-want-it lives. And God grieves like a parent taking her child to the ER, only more so.

My daughter was going to climb whatever it was she climbed and crawl down it head first regardless of what I'd ever told her, simply because she wanted to. I can't control that. I can't, no matter how desperately I try, control what she WANTS. And it scares the crap out of me. And that is really what this is all about. The fear. The talks. The prayers. Bones will heal. Her images will fade. But what will she WANT next time? What will she choose? And what will the cost be, then?


Lisa Biggs Crum said...

surprised by anger? have they read the Old Testament? Read about Jesus in the Temple dealing with money changers - who knew better; cursing a tree that wasn't doing what it was supposed to do; getting frustrated when the disciples weren't getting it?

I think the replay of your emotions pretty well describes what God may feel when we live our "i-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it" lives - when we refuse to hide or think about God's word in our heart so that we will not do stupid things. At least that's what it made me think of.

Plus I've also experienced the same emotion with my child who seems to refuse to think at times.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, many of us have that 'thank the Lord you're alive, now I want to kill you' feeling when something like this happens.
Hopefully, this lesson will be good timing-- maybe the 'hey, Mom and Dad aren't totally nuts' thought will come into her head from time to time. And maybe she'll decide that the whole 'good judgement' thing isn't just weird parenting drivel. Getting that now before the hormones and the drivers license might be the silver lining to this cloud. We can pray that anyway.
Good luck.

Cindy said...

I would have been angry. All the investment...lost...for a while.