I spent the day, a week ago, sitting beside a hospital bed.

Of my son’s 1,387 days on earth, he’s spent about 68 of them in a hospital.  There’s nothing quite like waiting beside a cot in the NICU, where your tiny child lies, to teach you about life.  It’s like a crash course in perspective.  And so, knowing that I was heading in for another such experience, I planned to write about that…about what you think, what you dwell on, and what you realize you are so thankful for, as you sit beside a hospital bed.

I definitely undersold the toys he would get to play with before his operation!

But then we came home from the hospital, and it. was. hard.  It was so much harder than I anticipated.  Not because of his pain, or his recovery, or our tiredness…although those were all factors.  Because of our attitudes. 

I was anticipating all rainbows and butterflies.  This surgery, this event that I’ve been dreading literally since before he was born, was over. He was ok, we were ok, everything was ok.  I was expecting relief and gratefulness and excitement to wash over me.  I was expecting relief to wash over him, too, because even though he’s only 3.5, I know he was anxious to get it over with.

Instead, we’ve both been cranky.  SO cranky. 
He’s been causing random mischief everywhere.  I’ve been losing my cool. 
I feel irritable and angry and like I just want to be left alone. He doesn’t know what he wants half the time. 
We have both cried a lot.  And I’ll be honest…if I hadn’t spent time reading and learning about gentle parenting, and the way our behavior is such a manifestation of actual, real, deep emotions, and not always just the desire to “be naughty”, I would have dealt with things so much differently. 
As it is, I’ve reacted in many ways I am not proud of.

Instead, I have had exposure to these ideas…ideas that confirm right and wrong, to be sure, but also encourage us to deal with all conflict, even conflict with our children, in ways that are gentle and kind. So it’s also been an interesting time, when I think about it. 
It’s been interesting to see how all the worry and stress and anxiety and wound-up-ness of the past couple months is releasing itself, now that the forced cheerfulness and adrenaline have left us.

I’ve been able to observe him completely crashing into every boundary, testing his reality after an event that was so far from normal.  I’ve been able to witness how he will collapse into tears like his heart is breaking, only to move on quickly and happily after he has had a good cry. 
I’ve been able to see how much I want to just “fix” it, now that physical pain and recovery are also part of the picture, and how really, what my little boy needs is someone to be there for him like normal.  Someone to be his anchor, to tell him that it’s ok to cry, to stop him when he is causing harm to people or things and confirm the constants that make up our home life.  This is not the last time he will face a scary life event.  This isn’t the last time I will, either.  And while, I hope, we both continue to grow in the peace and trust of Christ, feeling scared and sad is part of being human. 

feeling scared and sad is part of being human.

To be honest, it can be a lot easier to gloss over when the fear comes in small doses here or there; tiny little emotional flares that fizzle and slowly die when you squash them down.  But for us the past few weeks, it was a roaring, raging fire…impossible to ignore.  Consequently, we have had the advantage of being forced to deal with it; acknowledge it; accept it; bring it before God; figure out how to honor our need to express our feelings while also being kind and loving to those around us. 

So instead of writing a really touching, sweet piece…like I originally planned…I wanted to highlight the messy bit. Just because we realize we have an infinite amount of things to be thankful for doesn’t mean we always act like it. And the measure of fruitful growth we experience isn’t accurately indicated by the level of peace or happiness that surround us at any given time.

Just because we realize we have an infinite amount of things to be thankful for doesn’t mean we always act like it

We’re still in the storm, but it has already taught me a lot.  I hope it has taught my son a lot, too.  I hope it taught him good ways to cope, to be sure, but more than that, I hope it taught him that his mom and dad can be trusted and depended on.  That no matter what he does, he is loved.  That all the swinging fists in the world can’t stop me from wanting to hug him when the tantrum is over.  That God is such a good, good Father to give us people we can hold on to when we are weak and scared. 

This time has been messy and muddy and hard, but I don’t want to be fighting each other in the midst of the sludge….I want to be fighting together as we work our way out of it.

Back together after surgery…one of my most favorite moments of the day.

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