Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Unhinged

About 10 years ago, I awoke from a dream wherein I had been scratching my face. As I was emerging from slumber, my fingers felt something real...something crawly.

A bee.

Yes, I woke up, indoors, in a bed, a place that is supposed to be a place of calm, of rest, of comfort, with an actual bee crawling on my face...in my very own 5th realm of hell.

Now, I'm actually an outdoorsy person. I love to sip coffee outside in the mornings. I love to take hikes and go for runs and play at the beach and dig my hands into deliciously fertile soil and plant things. I don't really mind spiders or worms or caterpillars or flies or frogs.

But flying, stinging insects?

I question God daily about why they need to exist.

I can't even watch videos about beekeeping. I can barely eat honey because it makes me think of them. I can't click on stories about killer bees or I will NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. My fear of being stung is almost as great as my fear of being eaten by sharks. If a bee flies near me, I lose my mind.

I know on some level that this is irrational. I have no power over it.

This morning, there was a whole five minutes of calm. Not quiet, mind you, but no one was screaming or throwing or hitting. They were just eating. Sweetly. We might have even been a brief picture of domestic tranquility. It happens, be it ever so rarely.

And then this:

Nate: "Mama, big bug!"
Me: (Distractedly, as I'm packing bags to head to camp.) "Do you see a fly?"
Nate: "Nope."
Me: "Oh, what do you see?"
Nate: "Big bug. Mama, big bug!" (Pointing at the window excitedly)
Me: (Looks over where he is pointing and sees the LARGEST FLYING, STINGING THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. And it is INSIDE MY HOUSE."

I quickly run my options.

(1) I could run screaming from the house leaving all three of my children alone to deal with said insect. This could be asking too much of them.
(2) I could suck it up and go smush the thing against the window, but my instincts have always told me that if you go after something that large and dangerous, you will somehow miss and then it will attack you and then my three children will have a mother who has passed out on the floor from sheer terror.
(3) I could die.

None of those options were really frontrunners of rationality, so I had to regroup.

I frantically pulled all three boys out of the kitchen and stuck them in a corner of the living room. Miraculously, they stayed standing exactly where I put them because I am pretty sure they thought I was having some kind of colossal meltdown. (I was, actually, this was not an illusion. I was close to hyperventilating and my heart was banging around in my chest.)

I ran into the garage to find the wasp and hornet spray and came up empty.

Dialed the husband.

Reed: "Hello?"
Me: "PLEASE TELL ME WE HAVE HORNET SPRAY IN THE GARAGE!!!!!"
Reed: "What? Hello?"
Me: (Dog is barking frenziedly in background, Jayce has now managed to pull off his diaper and is peeing on the floor, killer insect is buzzing menacingly against the window and Nate is yelling "Big BUG!!! Big BUG!!! Mama CRY!)
Reed: "Umm...do you need the bug spray?"
Me: "YES! Did you unpack it?"
Reed: "No. But I know it's in a box in the garage."
Me: (Silent panic)
Reed: "I think there's only one box left out there."
Me: "Ok. Jayce, stop peeing! Nate, don't touch the bug!!!"
Click.

I race back to the garage, find the box, locate the spray and run back in. As I am about to spray a highly toxic substance in our home, I grab the two littles and drag them upstairs to Nate's room with Josh in charge.

And I take care of it - I use every ounce of bravado and adulting and caffeine in my body and I spray that bugger. I am literally dying inside as I do it. But that punk went down. I still don't know what it was. It looked like a cross between a hornet and honeybee that was high on crack. Maybe it was endangered. I DO NOT CARE. I would do it again. Unless Reed was around, then I would choose Option 1 above.

I washed the floors and the window. Things were miraculously (suspiciously?) quiet upstairs. I tried to resume normal breathing rhythms and slow my heart rate so that I would still not be in danger of passing out. So that I would look like I was in control when I went back up to my kids.

And I marched upstairs and opened that door. And found my 3 children sitting innocently and quietly on the floor reading books. (Friends, this has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Maybe I need to become unhinged a little more often.)

Nate: "Mama, bug gone?"
Me: "Yes, buddy, the bug is gone."
Nate: "Mama ok now?"
Me: "Yes, Natey. Mama ok."

But I'm not. I never will be. There will always be bees and wasps and unidentifiably large, hostile, flying, stinging things. I am still haunted on a weekly basis by the one that slept on my face. I will remember the killer one in my kitchen FOREVER.

And I'm pretty sure my kids will, too.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Follow-Through

Three times it has happened.

Three times we have met a new neighbor, a boy just my oldest son's age.

Three times we have been told that that boy would come knocking to play at a specific time.

Three times my son has woken up, gotten dressed, cheerfully done all his chores and waited for a potential new friend to knock.

Zero times has that boy shown up.

As a parent, there are fewer things more difficult than watching your child be sad. Almost two months ago, we took my son from all that he knew. A school he loved, a friendly neighborhood, best friends in the backyard, a fantastic soccer team, a church where he was learning to worship with other kids in a multi-generational setting.

And for two months I have watched him try to be brave. To smile for us, to help with his brothers, to power-wash our fence and help unpack the truck. To set up his room just the right way and patiently earn his way to new roller blades through doing extra chores. To find him sobbing in his room, wishing he were still in Wisconsin, unwilling to admit that he's probably mad at what we've done to him. Hurting.

And when these possibilities of friends, of humans his age living so close are dangled in front of him, I see his hopes rise. I see his step lighten.

When they don't show?

I see him crushed again. And in that disappointment, all the things he misses come rushing back in on him. The pain becomes even more acute. The homesickness grows.

I can't do much here. I can play with him and take him on special outings for taboo foods we can no longer keep in the house because of his brother's issues. I can teach him how to pray through this pain, how to invite God into it. I can do all this.

But I cannot be a nine year-old boy.

And what he needs is a friend.

So, I sit here and type as he plays legos alone and his brothers sleep. I asked if I could play but he wanted to be alone. I don't know how to get our neighbors to follow through. Today, after the disappointment, I marched him over to knock on their door. No one was home. Not once has anyone given us an explanation for the no-shows.

If there is one thing I have learned about my oldest it is that he never forgets anything. A promise, a casual comment, a word. They stick. If someone says he will give him a present, he asks every day for months if it has come in the mail. If someone says he will write, he asks me to check the mailbox all day long. If someone says she will come over, he waits by the door.

He trusts that people will do what they say they will do.

And I am so afraid that the more this happens, the more his nature is going to change. That he won't believe what people say. That he will have trouble letting new people into his life.

I don't know why that boy and his mama didn't come over this morning. I don't know why the other ones didn't come last week. I don't want to pass any judgments. There could have been an emergency. She doesn't have my number to call and let me know what's going on. Maybe she just forgot or decided it was inconvenient to stop what she was doing and go hang with the lonely neighbors. I don't know.

But man, I hate feeling helpless and I hate watching him let down. Again. And knowing that I, too, am capable of this failure, have not always followed through. Have not always been true to my word. Have flung promises carelessly at times. Have inflicted my own share of pain.

I cannot shelter him from the disappointments. I can only teach him to cling to the One who doesn't disappoint.  In fact, I know deep down that he has to experience this to truly be human, to develop empathy, to learn about the importance of his own follow-through. Of doing what he says he will do and speaking truth and life to the people in his life.

Friends, I don't know if you have children in your life. But I know we all have humans in our lives. And I know that as humans we crave to be able to trust, we desire to be sought after, to be followed-up. To be shown we matter.

Being people who say what they mean and do what they say has no small impact on the world. Following through on what we say is just one gift we can give to each other, one way we can be lovely in a world filled with so much unlovely.

Let's just be that, shall we?