Monday, December 8, 2014

When Your Child Has an Emotional Breakdown...

            It’s the last thing you expect as a parent: your four-year-old child having a real emotional breakdown.
            Parents so often go blithely along in their lives, doing whatever it is they’re doing, thinking their children are happily going right along with them, without internal pain or struggle. Their pasted-on smiles and desire-to-please demeanors often mask what’s really going on behind those arresting, loving eyes.
            That’s what happened to us, and I should have seen it coming. I should at least have been looking for it, since the same thing happened after Victoria’s death. Manifested in a different way, with different symptoms, but it was there.
            I was so wrapped up in trying to save my unborn child; and Chris was so wrapped up in being chronically sick and tired, and focused on work and keeping me tended to, that we missed it. And Chris kept missing it even when Parker let it all out. Well, maybe Chris did get it but thought Parker needed some toughening up. Or he thought that since it was coming from a little kid, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Being a mom, I didn’t see it that way, though. And being a man who knows what’s like to suffer through parental indifference and rejection, Chris should have been sensitive to it, too…


            After arriving home and standing in our vacuous entryway, gaping around for several minutes, Chris suggested that I lie down. So I headed in the direction of the guest room, where I would continue to take up residence so I could pump breast milk throughout the night and not disturb Chris.
            Parker followed me, and he had vastly different ideas about what was going to happen next.
            He wanted attention. He needed attention. He needed to be held, squeezed, kissed, touched—physically loved. Parker had been forced to wait far too long for the security of my embrace.
            Walking into the guest room, he lifted his arms and begged to be picked up and carried, just before collapsing into a state of tearful hysteria. Chris stood behind him, shaking his head, “No,” at me, while waving at me not to do it; mouthing, “You are not yet strong enough to lift him up,” words.
            But I had to. It was so critical and necessary to validate his special place in our family by holding and touching him, by reaffirming my love, devotion and commitment to him. It reminded me once again of Jesus, who so often met people’s physical needs first, by acknowledging, touching, feeding, healing—before He provided spiritual needs. Jesus recognized not just the power in His touch, but the power of a touch. My four-year-old was in desperate need of that wordless, reaffirming, transforming power, that special tactile language of love.
            Scooping him up, I carried him to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet seat, and held him tightly, caressing his head and methodically rocking my body back and forth as I encouraged him to let the tears flow—the tears he had stoically contained for so long, in order to protect me. He sobbed relentlessly in my firm grip, huge raking sobs laced with faint tremors, and I strained to hear his barely audible voice divulge his deepest, previously un-divulged fears. I could feel the stress pour from his immature body. Whenever I shifted position slightly, he grasped tighter, as though afraid a relinquishment of his grip would result in my immediate evaporation from his embrace.
            All he understood was that Mommy was finally home, and that he no longer had to pretend he had everything under control; that nothing in the world bothered him. He no longer needed to worry about upsetting me, bouncing me in the bed and hurting me. He desperately wanted everything to be just as he had known it to be before: that he was still irreplaceable to his mother, who had concentrated for so very long on another life besides his.
            Life had not been normal for months, and it never would really return to Parker’s definition of normal. Very soon, life for him would never again be the same. But for that moment, he needed assurance that he had his mother back, and he was the most important thing in the world to her. And at that critical moment, God provided all of the physical strength and love I needed to give my son everything he could no longer live without.

NEXT WEEK: My first night home, and I feel like I'm losing God…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!



*For those of you who are doing Advent studies in preparation for Christmas, here is the link to my 2013 Christmas post: "Without the Cross, There is No Christmas." I think you'll find it an interesting addition to your devotions!