Monday, June 10, 2013

With Rice Stuck to my Butt...

She woke up happy this morning, I should have known I’d have wet sheets; why else would she be up so early?  As she stood there dancing around, chirping like an early morning bird, I gathered wet bedding happy for the joy in her voice.  The more I dug at the sheets, the more I realized the severity of the watering.  As she turned around I saw the dark outline reaching up to her middle back; “crap” I muttered out loud.  I knew the battle I was in for – a wet sweatshirt, vest, camisole and jeans meant this morning would turn into an epic battle.

I struggled to get her to surrender the ever-present denim vest and hooded sweatshirt, peeling them off with her fighting with every ounce of resistance she could offer.  Pulling that sweatshirt off in her mind is like flaying skin and sometimes I wonder if it hasn’t been on so long that it’s actually attached to her.

I managed to get them all off and summarily marched her to the shower.  Once in, I have 120 seconds in which I can do anything I please.  Drink coffee, read a book, make breakfast.  120 seconds that’s also shared by the need to get her scrubbed, get her new clothes ready for the reassembly process.  Reassembling the front end of a Volkswagen is far easier than dressing this little livewire.

We went through numerous camisoles before she found one that was acceptable, the jeans went easy, and the denim vest however, was a deal breaker.  No power on earth was going to get her to wear a substitute, in fact had my wife not prepared rice for breakfast I’d likely still be fighting with her on that topic.  She settled at the table, minus the favorite vest and sweatshirt although not without making one feeble pull on the washer door and punch at the colored buttons on the control panel.  They offered her no support either so she moved on to breakfast without too much drama.

The bus rumbles down the driveway early.  With Bethany, three minutes on either side of “expected” clearly constitutes early or late, with its rumble comes the fear that they’ll not wait long enough for me to get her harnessed and out the door and I begin to panic.  She’s not cooperating and fully expects the washer to produce a dry vest and sweatshirt. 

For parents with kids who exhibit obsessive/compulsive tendencies, this is a familiar pattern.  A seemingly insignificant change in routine, pattern, expectation, sets off a firestorm of wild behavior.  I did my best to peaceably cope with it but the fear of missing the bus and having to cart her 40 minutes in the “wrong” direction was not appealing so I put the full court press on her.  I grabbed the four-point harness that she wears on the bus and quickly lassoed her with it.  I zipped the back of it up and proceeded to use the excess webbing as a carrying handle.  I stuffed the secondary hooded sweatshirt and vest in to her day bag and directed her out the door.

I felt like Karl Walenda on the high wire, taking her out to the bus without a sweatshirt I felt fearful, liberated, daring, like I was passing a long line of cars on a narrow road.  Adrenaline rushed in my heart at the thought of putting her on the bus “freestyle”.  She stomped her way to the door and bolted up the stairs intent on punching the first human she encountered.  The bus attendant could see the steaming fury coming at her and backed out of the way, I simply offered to guide her to her seat in the back.  Back seat, surrounded by crash pads – that’s my daughter. 

I’m not a person that “throws things over the fence” for others to deal with.  Even when re-roofing houses I rarely ever shingle over an existing roof – that just means someone else will have to take off two layers.  On this occasion, Putting her in that seat and heading towards the front of the bus was the emotional equivalent of putting on a third layer of shingles – its just not right, against code, and nearly unethical.  I did the best I could; I quietly prayed that she’d have a good day in spite of the rough beginning.

Nearly every day is like this and in an odd way, it separates us from the “normal” worries of the world.  One day I’ll likely worry about the clothes I wear to work, whether or not I have her breakfast rice stuck to my butt or drool on my sleeve.  One day the screams of other students on her bus, their conditions and my joy at greeting them in their own little languages (no Chad – no party today; no Robert, you’re not going to church; Mia, you have the most beautiful smile behind that paper mask).  One day that will all seem distant to me, I pray when that day comes that I still love the thought of and cherish the lesson from having breakfast rice stuck to my butt.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grace Moments

We were sharing a handful of pistachios while sitting on the back porch swing, the sun setting off to the west, Thrushes and Towhees gently calling an end to the day.  Swinging back and forth on the old porch swing, she munched on the singularly dispensed nuts that I offer her.  As for me, I needed to simply be careful not to knock over the beer bottle that was strategically placed between my feet.  For 90 seconds life is suspended in this animated glory, I dare not reach for the beer for fear that the trance will be broken, the moment lost and the struggle we had earlier in the evening resumed.

These moments are so few and when they hit I dare not breathe for fear of losing them.  They’re what I call the “grace moments” – God reaches out and puts peace in my heart and it’s the same epiphany that Martin Luther no doubt held when he came to understand that we’re saved by grace, not by works.  That same gong goes off in my head as I realize that in this glorious moment, her life and mine are in balance, in agreement, and in the care of a loving God.  That will no doubt change in the next 30 minutes but for now, it’s a delightful and encouraging experience.

I watch as other evening birds fly their last sorties for the day, the 3 bats that have graced the skies above this old farmhouse for as long as we’ve lived here, begin their nightly forage at the all-you-can-eat mosquito bar.  “Go for it boys, fill up” I say.  She laughs.  Something in my intonation tickled her fancy and she laughs out loud again, giggling at first but then rolling into a full-belly laugh, extending those 90 seconds for a minute longer.  I gratefully accept the extension.

I dread the bedtime struggle, the fighting which is a literal statement.  So many parents talk about the fight at bedtime and what they really speak of is the struggle of wills.  For us, it’s a literal fight; fists swinging, glasses smashing, diaper shredding, hard shoving and deep fingernail gouging.  “Try nice-words”, the therapists suggest.  I don’t even respond, as “nice-words” with Bethany are as ineffective as aspirin would be in controlling cancer. 

That struggle however, is still a full 9 minutes away – held at bay by a grace moment, one that’s been extended by a full 60 seconds so for the next few minutes we enjoy the birds, the bats, the creaking of the swing chains, the cool of the evening and joy of knowing that each of us is doing the very best we can.