The Fear of Being Found Out

Living inside me for as long as I can remember, is a book. I have always known it was there, or, perhaps, I came to believe it was there because I was never told any different. During all the hours spent telling stories around my mother’s dining room table, in every exaggerated tale I recounted for my friends, in every blog post I write… there has always been this sense that the rest of the story was tucked somewhere inside me - too young, too fragile - to make its way out. I can’t count how many times someone has said to me, through laughter or tears (and oftentimes both), that I need to write a book.

And they’re right. I need to write this book.

Because it’s always been there, and I can’t carry it around any more.

Back in November, a friend of mine decided to submit some of my writing (without my knowledge) to an acquisitions editor at a reputable publishing company. I was terrified and unprepared for the feeling of vulnerability that came with her telling me that she did this, but I could hardly be mad at a girl for believing in me. Especially since, after reading the pieces she submitted, they asked to come to see me speak at a small event in Michigan and then that led to the longest lunch meeting known to man. Our three hour lunch led to a notoriously heavy and daunting door, which opened to me, ever so slightly. The door was cracked just enough for a little light and hope to come through, along with the whisper of an invitation. That glimmer of an invitation was for me to submit a book proposal. 

Do you want to know what happens to the book that has always been inside of you when someone invites you to finally attempt to write it?  

You know what else happens?

It disappears. 

Yes, the book that has always been there, vanishes. But it doesn't just disappear. Oh no... it disappears and then you also have an existential crisis. And you begin to wonder if it was ever really there to begin with. And you question your own truth and your ability to share it, and you question everything you thought you were so sure about. And you panic, and maybe you start to write a fiction manuscript, because you have completely lost your head at this point. And then you stop letting yourself be afraid to learn from the people who have gone before you - even if you think they got it wrong - and you stop feeling so alone, and so afraid. And you start to find your book again.

 At least… that’s what I hear happens to people.

This process has taught me how much fear - thick and pernicious - runs through my bones. Fear that what I have to say won’t matter. Fear that I have no right to say anything at all. Fear that all this fear will hinder the quality, and reach, of my message. Fear that I don’t even have a message, at least not one that is unique or meaningful. Fear that I will get it wrong. Fear that I will get it right (and then people will think I actually know things!) Fear that this will take more away from my family than it gives. Fear that the door will close as quickly as it has barely cracked. Fear that I will be embarrassed when my book proposal is rejected (they almost always are - many, many, many times.) Fear that I will quit before I even get a chance to be rejected. Fear that I won’t ever quit and I will just keep forcing something that isn’t supposed to be. Fear that I will actually care about publishing and writing won’t feel pure anymore, that the pursuit will ruin my honesty, my integrity as a writer. Fear that I won’t care enough about getting published and so it will never happen. Fear that everyone will finally know that I am a phony, and will confirm to me that I am, in fact, the worst possible perception I have of myself.

So. Much. Fear.

 And gosh, so much ego it’s sickening.

So, I am all done processing this privately. It’s just not in my DNA to be scared all by myself. What makes me audacious is that I can’t keep my big mouth shut for more than a minute. What makes me relatable is that I will tell the beautiful, harsh and sometimes ugly truth about my life. What makes you come back is that I can sometimes be brave. Telling you all about what I fear most makes me feel really vulnerable, but that is also where I feel most brave.

So as much as I would like to curl up inside my fear, and hunker down for good... I won’t, because that would keep me small. That would keep my truth, my GOD, so small. And so, as much as I fear you all discovering that I am a total fraud, I will risk rejection and I will walk into this thing exposed and vulnerable and maybe sometimes even a little bit brave. I will let my stories, my truth, my God, be bigger than my fear. I will invite Him to show up in ways that are so much bigger than my fragile ego, and my concern for how the world will perceive who I am or what I do.

And I will invite you all into the process too. Because when you have a book inside you for 35 stinkin' years, it simply must get written eventually, even if it’s no good. And you, my beloved readers, are the ones I want with me as I go. Writing for you has made me feel brave. Finally brave enough to let that - too young, too fragile - story inside me, grow big enough and sturdy enough to come out.

 

Are Kids "Lucky" to be Adopted?

I have never been so thoroughly pursued by a man in all my life as I have been by my four year old son. I am telling you, this child proposes marriage - not daily - but hourly. And those are on his weaker days! Sometimes the professions of love and desperate proposals come incessantly. When he kisses me goodnight, it is with both of his sweet, almost-always-sticky brown hands pressed on each side of my face (a romantic proclamation of my beauty is usually involved at this point) and then he kisses me in a frenzy of uncontrolled emotion. With these bodacious lips.

It is the most adorable and unnecessary display of passion I've ever been the recipient of. And it happens all. day. long. Quite simply, the boy is in love. But, there is something peculiar about the urgency and intensity of his affections for me. It has taken me some time to put my finger on why exactly that is. He seems almost desperate in his expressions of love, to the point that he seems almost exasperated by it.

"I'm gonna marry you so much!" and "I'm just lovin' you, UGH I'm just lovin' you so MUCH." He picks flowers for me every time we step foot outside - one bunch of dandelions "for now" and the other handful "for our wedding tomorrow, or yesterday." I have never met a four year old boy so preoccupied with getting married. So, I decided to get to the bottom of his romantic shenanigans.

After several long discussions, I think I have come to a place of understanding. He is afraid.

Jay was about 24 hours old when I first met him in the hospital. His first mom, the lovely Miss N., and I had been in contact over the phone during the weeks leading up to his birth. Tom and I developed a fast connection with her, and because we had already had a previous adoption fall through, we knew that the child she was carrying may not end up being part of our family. And while common sense, previous experience, and all of our loved ones told us to be cautious, we loved her. We weren't thinking about "protecting ourselves" or "not getting too attached." Our relationship with her was developing not because we hoped to parent her child, but because she is adorable and not loving her would be impossible. We made a promise to her that we would be there to help and support her in any way she needed, regardless of the decision she ended up making. She invited us to come to the birth and seemed firm in her decision to place Jay with us when he was born. Still, we reminded her that giving birth is an unimaginable game-changer, and we wanted her to have plenty of room to feel free to change her mind if she felt at any point that she wanted to pursue parenting opposed to placing him with us. We tried to be supportive and encouraging throughout the emotion. To be completely honest, as much as we loved Jay from the first moment we laid eyes on him, we were pulling for her to parent. We really believed she could do it. 

For her own personal reasons - reasons that are hers to tell, not mine - she allowed us to be his parents. It was a gift, a great responsibility and an honor, of course. But it was also a tragedy. 

For a baby and his mother to be separated from one another is always an utter tragedy. The grief that Tom and I experienced on their behalf was minuscule in comparison to what they endured. This is true for both of our children who came to us through adoption. And while it looks so different for them both, every single day I see the primal wound that this separation has inflicted upon my babies. And their first mamas.

Since realizing this, Jay's romantic advances, while precious, have become just like every other aspect of adoption. There is a bitter-sweetness underlying every kiss, a complex fear of being apart from me that drives every impassioned sentiment, a child's desperate attempt to guarantee that he will never lose another mama drives every marriage proposal.

Both of my boys are perfect, but they are both hurting in their own way. They both long for the security that comes from a mother's love. People often downplay the pain that adoptees endure, assuming that a child who was adopted in infancy "never knows the difference." These same people will watch nature documentaries and marvel that a sea turtle can travel all over the ocean and make its way back to it's home. (I don't actually know if sea turtles do that, but you get my drift.) If an animal has a primal instinct to find it's way home, how much more does a human child have that same pull?

And I may not know much about sea turtles, but I do know this... my boys, in some sense, will always be longing for home. And people say that they are "lucky to have us." But, when my nine year old son wakes up with his heart pounding in his chest because he dreamed of meeting his beautiful birthmom for the very first time, lucky isn't how I'd describe him.

Whether they can understand all the nuances at this point or not, they will always know that in our home, they have the right to feel sad about their adoption. And they have the right to feel happy about it too, and angry, and confused, and relieved and all the things. Even... unlucky. 

My prayer is that as they grow and mature, and really begin to feel the weight and implications of their adoption stories, that they will forgive us for all the ways that we could not meet their needs, for every shortcoming and every imperfection. My prayer is that our flaws will only make them long for another home, and eternal home, where our perfect Father waits to hold them and love them and meet every need they ever had. 

Somewhere Between Solid & Liquid : One Journey of Infertility

I invited my friend Sherri to blog here today because her story is one that so many men and women can relate to. I know that those of you who face infertility - and the exhausting emotions that come with the cyclical hope-disappointment-despair - will be particularly blessed by it. And for those of you that do not face such a battle, my prayer is that Sherri's words will make everyone a little more aware, a little more sensitive, and a lot more compassionate. I know that you all will show Sherri so much love for sharing her story here. I have the world's best blog followers. (Or technically the worst since like 0.001% of you that read the blog regularly have actually subscribed. So, go ahead and fix that first by subscribing below... and then show Sherri some love.) Many, many thanks to Sherri for her beautiful, honest, and wise words. 

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When you mix cornstarch and water together, you end up with a sticky yet somewhat stable material called “oobleck”. It’s on the fence of deciding whether it is going to be a liquid or a solid. Under pressure it feels hard, yet when you try to hold it- it liquefies. Oobleck is an accurate description of me walking through years of infertility. I was a solid form, working in a dental office, married, attending church, paying the bills. Yet as the official diagnosis came into perspective, I became messy and fragile underneath a hard exterior.  

Something I learned is that infertility doesn’t discriminate. There is somewhat of an age factor, but it crosses the lines of all socioeconomic levels, race, ethnicity, etc. I was 24, and I believed the doctors when they said to not worry, pregnancy will happen. Instead, I endured years of painful, violating tests with little results.

The urologist, who was pregnant, of course, did not take our situation seriously. She waved her hand in front of her protruding belly and said, “Don’t worry, you’re young! We’ll get you pregnant!” As a dental hygienist —a healthcare provider— her statement steams me; I never promise anyone a particular outcome. She probably was not as daft as I am remembering, but that’s what infertility does to you, or me, that is. It makes you angry.

I was hardening on the outside, and at the same time I was a crying, snotty mess whenever I was home. My intimate life that I shared only with my husband and God was furled out on display for all to see. I felt dissected.

We wanted our pregnancy announcement to be an exciting surprise, and with every holiday that came, I daydreamed how I would tell Jeff and our families that we were expecting. I thought of everything.

I dreamed of a baby in Autumn, so January was the target month. I was careful to plan sex around ovulation in March because I didn’t want my baby to have to share Christmas. I planned every holiday and the pregnancy announcement gifts for our parents, and every holiday that passed by was a reason to start thinking ahead for the next one. It’s probably good that Pinterest wasn’t around then. I was happy for friends who announced their pregnancies and I dreamed about sharing the experience of pregnancy with my friends and with my sister.

I stopped purchasing clothes altogether because we were on limited finances due to the testing (Jeff and I had a couple of years where we didn’t have insurance, so our budget was blown). The truth is, I blamed ‘no shopping’ on the budget, but what I was secretly hoping was to be saving for maternity clothes.

I stopped planning trips, and whenever someone talked about going away or flying, I would think to myself, “Well, I’m not sure if I will be able to travel in x months”. I visited my bestie— Melissa, in Italy, which was great, but leading up to the trip, I wondered if I’d even be able to travel or if I’d be pregnant. The constant waiting for our little miracle was wearing on me, month after month.

I lived my life in two week chunks. TWW is an abbreviation for the two week wait that occurs after ovulation and before you start your period… it’s pretty stressful. It was even more stressful when Jeff started traveling for work. He is an awesome husband and a provider for our family, but it was very easy to hate his job. It was my own hurt, expectations, and hormone driven craziness that made me angry and take it out on him when he spent entire weeks out of town. The window for conception is pretty slim, and I know that my brokenness inhibited our relationship.

I yearned to have morning sickness. Any time I thought I could possibly be pregnant and I had some feeling of an upset stomach, I was elated. There were two times that I thought that I was pregnant because I was a couple of days late - and I was never late. But, as cruel as AF is (Aunt Flo for the non-infertile people) those periods were worse. I have always wondered if I miscarried, and though I told myself that it shouldn’t matter, I was still curious. I took a lot of pregnancy tests… and ovulation tests. There were times that I was so sure that I was pregnant that I would stare at the line hoping that another one would show up. One time, okay probably more than once, I took a test out of the trash. It’s called BFN (Big Fat Negative) when that second line doesn’t appear. I bought the tests at a CVS near my office— that way no one would see me buying them. Same with the multivitamins with DHA in them— I didn’t want anyone to know before we were ready.

The hardest part was succumbing to reality— this was never going to happen. Honestly, right up until the week before my hysterectomy, I believed that God could change our situation, that I could have a mini-me.

Once I realized that Jeff and I were most likely not able to carry a biological child, we were years into our journey, and I was mentally fried. We were tired of discussing it with each other and exhausted from walking this path alone. I didn’t realize this while in the process, but I had intentionally yet unknowingly isolated myself from my friends and family. It was easier to talk to my patients than it was my family, because I would be a teary, crying mess.

My wall went up brick by brick with every pregnancy announcement, whether it was real or on television. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy because a character was pregnant. Incredulously I would exclaim, “They can’t just write that in a script and have it happen!” and cry myself to sleep. The Nature Channel, Springtime with all those baby animals being born, any children’s advertisement on television, and new Disney movies —they all were reminders of what wouldn’t happen for us. Okay, I also hid every post, story, or live feed video of that pregnant giraffe on my newsfeed. Quite honestly, I’m just glad that the birth is over with.

I remember hating Christmas. I’m a Christian, Christians can’t hate Christmas! Well, if you are an infertile reading this, what I am going to say is not a surprise to you. So here it is for everyone else wondering how I could have possibly hated Christmas: Mary was a VIRGIN. Then, pregnant. I know. I know the Christmas story, but I also know the feeling of grief, the loss of my dreams and the bargaining that comes hand in hand with infertility, and when you see a pregnant virgin, well, you don’t always think clearly. Also, I have an issue with children out with their parents shopping at 11pm and the Christmas season seems to bring all the craziness out. (I’m mostly referring to my own feelings here, not the overtired children in large chain stores when I believe they should be in bed.)

When I think of how I felt years back and what it may be like for you now, I feel the urge to vomit. Infertility is so unfair. My heart aches for you, longing to hold your child, waiting to hear the name, Mommy. Infertility is not your fault.

Hear me, dear one. Infertility is not your fault and it is not “part of God’s plan for your life”. The reason that you are unable to carry a baby is not because you haven’t believed enough, prayed enough, learned enough Bible verses, or that you don’t trust God enough. (Or, that your hubby is wearing briefs and taking a bath instead of airing out the goods in boxers).

So, I have some news for you: you don’t have to mimic oobleck, and thank goodness, neither do I. It took me many tear-filled years reading books on infertility, reading scripture, and praying to see that I needed to give myself a break and break free from my own expectations. I forced myself to sit through countless baby showers, baptisms at church, holding friend’s babies, and many other uncomfortable tasks because I felt I had to display that hard exterior. It’s okay to do those things, and sometimes they are fun, but if you feel like you will end up a drippy, snotty mess, stay home and pamper yourself. I’ve learned the power of the word, No.

I’ve also realized that it’s okay to share my story, and when I have, people have shared with me their hurts because they’ve felt comfortable with me. I was debilitated by my isolation, and I carried a heavy burden —opening up allowed me to see how many people supported us.

No matter your situation, I would encourage you to seek out counsel— whether professional or online through a group site or a blogpost, or read a good book. I follow “Waiting for Baby Bird”, and she has been a blessing to me, I wish I had her posts years ago. One of the books that was pivotal in my life was Kathe Wunnenburg’s “Longing for a Child: Devotions of Hope for Your Journey Through Infertility”. Her insight inspired me to free myself from my expectations and to take a break when I needed it. In one of her devotions, she connects anxiety with her birthday, and I realized that I did the same. Understanding that increase in anxiety, I purposely surrounded myself with the ones that I love and that love me.  

Dear friend, you are not alone. You may feel alone in your walk, but know that the Creator of this universe —the God of Heaven— is holding you, gathering your tears, and longing to heal your broken heart.     

"It’s on the fence of deciding whether it is going to be a liquid or a solid. Under pressure it feels hard, yet when you try to hold it- it liquefies." - Sherri Kurtz

"It’s on the fence of deciding whether it is going to be a liquid or a solid. Under pressure it feels hard, yet when you try to hold it- it liquefies." - Sherri Kurtz

 


 

 

Spanking in Public & How to Parent Like a Total Boss

I'm pretty sure my kids' principal saw me spank my husband in the school parking lot. I know what you're thinking...
"nbd, we've all been there." Right? That IS what you were thinking wasn't it?

No? Just us with the spanking?

Alright, well... if you'd had our morning you, too, would have some celebratory victory-swatting going on in public. Because this particular spank was about 3 years in the making. 

It all started when our son (now 9 years old) was in first grade. He needed some extra support because we were seeing signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder, yet were not aware of what he was actually struggling with. Without a diagnosis, there is very little support, so we ended up pulling Harper out of school half way through first grade. We had a tutor come to our home for an hour a day just so he wouldn't fall behind, but academics were the least of our worries. We spent that time home doing a lot of - what we lovingly refer to as - baby-ducking. Baby-ducking is a part of the therapeutic approach we were taking, and it's a really fun little descriptor that essentially means that your child is following you around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ya know, like a baby duck. I know it doesn't sound bad, but I assure you that it's pretty exhausting and much less adorable when baby duck (thinks he) hates your guts. 

By the time we enrolled him back in school for second grade we were working closely with an excellent therapist who specializes in disordered and insecure attachment. We had comprehensive testing done to ensure that Harper not only had a diagnosis, but all the tests and evaluations required to meet New York State's criteria to receive special education services. But here's the thing... we thought that was all we needed. We thought, "we don't have to be "those parents" who go in and demand all kinds of services, because our kid has a legit thing." And this "thing" is no longer an illusive, mysterious set of symptoms that make me look crazy. Finally, we had a well-documented, official DSM certified Severe Emotional Disturbance!! (You know you're in a rough patch when that last sentence is the good news.) Still, we thought we had everything we would need.

We were wrong.

Apparently, we needed to get to a point where I ALSO had a severe emotional disturbance.

Check, annnnnd check. (See post about the time I went B-A-N-A-N-A-S here.)

After the bananas, we knew that we had gotten to the point where we were willing to be "those parents" and we then requested another CSE meeting. So, on Thursday my husband, Tom, and I went in. He was a total boss. To be fair, he was the kind of boss who is so steady and relaxed, you wonder if he might be stoned... but he was a boss nonetheless. (*He was also not stoned, mom, so settle down.) He's just really calm and so nice by nature that he can't even be a boss in an unpleasant way. He (waaaaaay over-)prepared information from some intimidating group called something like The Justice League of Super Hero Lawyers for Moms About to Lose their Ever Lovin' Minds. And before the meeting, he even sent a semi-scary email, in which, he took a firm and serious tone.

It was pretty hot.

Riding Tom's over-prepared coattails, I closed in with an impassioned speech about why Harper truly does need to have an aide assigned to him - at least during unstructured times, like recess, lunch, etc. I didn't cry or start spontaneously swearing, which is how I usually imagine myself unraveling in these high-stress scenarios because I have been teetering precariously at the edge of insanity all school year. 

So here we are, at the end of third grade, and WE HAVE ARDENTLY AND SUCCESSFULLY ATTAINED AN IEP!!

Not only did we get that Individualized Education Plan in place, but we have secured a 1-to-1 aide for our guy during all unstructured times - which is when a child like ours really needs the extra support. I had been told repeatedly that getting an aide for him would be an impossibility. I mean, MULTIPLE times, I was told "It's never going to happen." 

So, forgive me if I walked out of that building with so much relief and empowerment that I spanked my husband while aggressively sports-yelling at the side of his face "We did it son!"

How was I to know that the school psychologist and principal would be right behind us? After our performance, one could only have assumed that all other meeting participants would still be in the conference room, doing slo-mo replays of our boss-like successes in parental advocacy. How was I to know that they would just leave the meeting after it was done? When such dope parenting had just taken place before their very impressed eyes, how could I conceive that they would have the wherewithal to move on to the parking lot?

Ah well, at least they didn't see all the chest-bumping and athletic growling that I forced Tom to participate in when we got home.

Actual photograph of us on Thursday morning...

And all Thursday night...

And well into Friday...

Wave after wave of glorious relief on Saturday...

Then Easter Sunday we took a break from all the fanfare, to celebrate a much greater victory... Jesus overcoming death and evil.

But this morning, I'm not gonna lie. The sense of triumph came back full force. 

Next year, this child of ours will go on to a bigger school, with more transitions, more kids, more freedom, less structure. This is good for a lot of kids, most kids in fact. For my child, however, this transition was like a train heading straight for us. We kept seeing it approach, the speed never changing and all we can do as parents is anticipate the damage that will be done on impact. So, we prayed and prayed and prayed. And Tom prepared and prepared and prepared. And I went just a titch ballistic. And we became "those parents" because the alternative was simply too dangerous for our kid. 

So... spanks all around. Because I know that this taste of relief is temporary. This rare and glorious optimism that maybe next year will be a little better and little easier than the last, is fleeting. We needed that victory spank. We needed a triumph. Because even though we really do believe in a God whose only son was sent to earth to triumph, once and for all, over death and evil... we know that life on this side of heaven, is still wrought with train after train, pain after pain. And though we have fought long and hard for our bizarre little children to feel a little safer, a little better, on the tracks... life always has another train ready to barrel over us. It sounds a little doomsday, I know, but pain and suffering are just a reality in the life of a human and I accept that a new obstacle, a new train, will be set in our son's path. But, we've worked really hard to learn our stuff, to drop the right names, to know his rights, so until we stare down that next train... we get to bask in the sweet relief of a temporary win on earth, and an eternal win beyond these earthly tracks.

And when you are in that place - a place of hope and favor and full, unrestrained joy... a place of amazement at God's faithfulness in this victory and the victory on the cross - you really must spank someone in the parking lot. Because these moments are all we have to sustain and energize us as we over-prepare for the next fight, like a total and complete boss. 

 

Life in the Tension

Sometimes I like to imagine what my kids will remember me teaching them throughout their childhood. What will stick? Will they remember all the "I love you's?" Will the "you're so brave's" and "tell me about your day's" be the words that become fastened to their memory? Or will something else overshadow the sweet and encouraging sentiments? One thing I frequently tell them that they find less favorable (but I am certain they will remember me saying) is "that is not a real problem." Let's run this down so we are all clear on what a real problem is in our house.

Scenario 1: You are four years old and you have no food to eat. At all. Ever.

Correct, that's a real problem. 

Scenario 2: You are four years old and you do not like "beet taste." 

Not even close to a real problem. (Also, beets are delicious.)  

Scenario 3: You must spend a half a day walking to a source of (questionably) drinkable water. 

Yes, this. This is a real problem. 

Scenario 4: Your food touches.  

No. Having your hot, nutritious food touch other bits of hot, nutritious food? That is - comically - not a real problem. 

You can see how they might remember me saying this. Because it is said frequently. And trust me, we are a big 'feelings' house. We talk about our feelings, we validate each others feelings, we use lots of expressive feeling words. There is no shutting down how they might feel about beets. This is a safe space to feel strong dislike for "beet taste." While I strive to always hear and even affirm their feelings, I don't pretend for a second that this is a real problem. 

I was discussing this with my friend Megan the other day. (Some of you might remember her from previous #AdamsActs posts about the heartbreaking loss of one of their sweet little twin girls, Zoey.) Megan and I were discussing our very low threshold for problems-that-aren't-really-problems. I think that low threshold is directly correlated with experiencing great and tragic loss. It changes you. It changes your perspective on what suffering is. It changes your capacity to tolerate complaints about that which is not a real problem. 

When facing challenges of various kinds, the leaders at our church will often use this phrase, "This is a tension to manage, not a problem to solve." Ugh... I love this, and oh how I wish that this concept would go ahead and just embed itself in my memory already! There are some challenges in my life that I have viewed as problems I desperately need to solve. Or avoid. Or feel sorry for myself about. These "problems" are not really problems to solve, they are simple tensions to manage. 

Instead of graciously managing the tensions, I have tried to control the tensions. I have tried solving the tensions. I have attempted to escape or avoid or blame the tensions. Shoot, I'd punch the tensions in the face if I could. Yet, nothing changes... the tension remains.

I recently shifted my definition of a problem to something more like this: a problem is only a problem if there is an actionable step one can take to work toward a solution. If no actionable step can be taken, there can be a lot of tension. That tension needs to be managed in a healthy way.

Parenting a child with a pretty severe behavioral disorder can feel a heck of a lot like a life-consuming problem. Except for one thing... there is no actionable step that I can possibly take to work toward a solution.

I must live in the tension. 

I can pray in the tension. I can cry in the tension. I can seek wise counsel in the tension. I can adjust my attitude about the tension. But I cannot solve it. I must accept it. 

The focus then is not on how to "solve" my son's disorder, but on how I can remain emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy enough to manage the tension that surfaces in light of my son's disorder.   

You may be wondering, "Who cares? What's the difference?" But the difference is everything. It's the difference between overwhelming shame that I cannot heal my child, and accepting him where he's at in his process. It's the difference between feeling exhausted and infuriated by the sheer volume of time spent supervising every little move, and recognizing our family's need for respite in order to prevent that fury and exhaustion. 

The difference is the understanding that I cannot play the Holy Spirit in my child's life. In the tension, I can only manage my own reactions, my own health, my relationships. But in the tension, I can know that I did not cause my child to have Reactive Attachment Disorder any more than I can cause my child's aversion to the glorious taste of a perfectly roasted sugarbeet. 

I did not cause either of these phenomena, and I cannot "cure" them either. I can only manage myself in the tension. 

It's hard to suffer well. And the greatest suffering occurs when there is no actionable step to take, because we cannot solve our way out of our pain. We cannot bring back the child that died. Or the parent who left. We cannot heal the primal wound that is left within the child who is separated from his first mother. 

We must simply learn to live, and accept, and love, in the tension.

So, when my five little ones are all grown and they reflect back upon their childhood, I hope that what they remember most is all the expressions of love, encouragement and adoration. Yet, I don't mind if they also remember me clarifying the difference between a real problem - real suffering - and something that is simply a tension to manage. Not only do I hope they remember hearing me speak these truths into their life, but I hope they remember me living, and loving, in the tensions... and teaching them to someday do the same. 

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Jay, age four, confronting his greatest fear, a beet.