Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fight or Flight

I really love biology. Loved it in high school and loved it again when I took it at UW just a few short years ago. Ideally, I'll end up in a field that deals with it, but right now is not the time to be too discerning about what the future holds.

I've always thought one of the most interesting aspects of animal behavior is the idea of fight or flight. That when presented with some kind of very real threat, we have two choices. We run from it or we do battle.

In parenthood, you kind of have to choose the second.

Before you think I sound crazy and violent, hear me out on this.

Being a parent is the first thing I have ever done that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not that I ever stop being married, of course, but with a rational human adult, one can take breaks. One can ask for space. One can assume one may sleep through the night without the other one waking her up. (Well, sometimes. The early months were dicey as we figured out how to share a bed, but that's another, more comedic story.")

Once you are a parent, that's it. If your kid needs you, nothing else will do. Maybe someone will give you a night off, but you always know there is the possibility of being called home in an emergency. Maybe you'll take a weekend away with your spouse, but you are still parent. Your brain cannot move from that state of being.

So when the battles come, you have to choose fight. You have to stay in it.

Now, biologically speaking, if I were a lesser being this would probably mean punching my toddler in the face after he has just punched me in the face. Meet force with force, right? Thankfully, I have rational logic and compassion to choose a different way to fight. If I didn't, my instinct to protect myself would surely kick in. And I would fight back at a very base level. A level that would not be in my children's (or my) best interest.

But, friends. It's hard. Take someone like myself who can be easily angered and add sleep deprivation and hunger to the mix, then when my 2 year old wallops me, I really, really have to work hard not to react. Not to lash out. Not to yell or freak out. Not to put him in time out and run to google and job search immediately so I can end this stay-at-home thing asap. Not to make the whole day about the one (or ten, as the day may be) incident. Everything feels more dramatic when I am hungry and tired.

This week, as I've been preparing myself to be alone for a few weeks with the little people (with some help coming a few days here and there, lest I mislead you), I have had to work hard to not fear. To emotionally plan ahead for the witching hour and how I will handle it on my own when the baby is crying and the toddler is melting down and throwing food and my 9 year old needs someone to read his spelling words to him to practice and the dog is barking at the neighbors at the hour of the day when my energy is the lowest.

I am preparing for battle.

But, I've really wanted to prepare differently than I might have a week ago. Prepare with hope, with intention, with a "WE CAN DO THIS" attitude.

And to get there, I have got to get past this perpetual feeling of anger. Anger at my life not looking like what I imagined. Anger that I am not working and not in school. Anger at being covered in bruises. Anger at being far from family and my closest friends during this challenging season.

I came across a quote this week in a rare moment of quiet reading about how Christians should approach that which feels like it's choking us of life.

"We should run to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have by yourself. Lay them all down...Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone." (From "Mom Enough")

Ouch. And phew.

Seriously, it hurt to read it but at the same time, it was like the breath went out of me.

Clinging to myself is not the way to do battle. The only way is to enter into the battle that God himself already won.

So, as the preparations continue, as I ready our family to handle being without superdad for a few weeks, I am finding glimmers of hope, small shreds of strength, quotes that are being put on index cards and placed around the house. Any little thing that will remind me that IT WILL BE OK. And maybe more than that, IT MAY BE GOOD.

Fight or flight?

I choose fight. But I choose to fight differently.

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