The kids are off the wall, smelling the scent of change in the air, senstitive like canaries in a coal mine to the first whiffs of stress and tension and anxiety. And their stress and activity and neediness double back on you at the same exact moment you're thinking you could make it through if you could only find a brief moment of quiet, a tiny square of space where no one was wanting or needing or pressing in. Then, as they're grabbing, pushing, running by you find yourself yelling, adding your own foot-stomping, finger-pointing, tantrum to the mix. Oh, please tell me I'm not the only one.
The following is a poem I wrote one week this summer, when I found myself close to the edge. Thankfully I had a babysitter coming that morning and I was able to send myself off into a little corner of God's beautiful creation for a much needed time out. This poem plays with a line that caught my attention while we were reading Little House in the Big Woods; it comes in a scene where Pa is getting his heavy metal traps ready for hunting season.
"There were small traps and middle-sized traps
and great bear traps with teeth in their jaws that
Pa said would break a man's leg if they shut onto it."
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
wound like a steel trap
ready to spring
loaded for bear
the weight of it could break a man's leg.
Oh God, please help me,
for the sake of my children -
lest they somehow, playing too close,
trip the spring and
find themselves crushed
beneath the weight of
The weight of it could break a child.
What to do with this anger, God,
but to write it out, pray it out, breathe it out.
Help me, God, not to be afraid to
to the deeper places
where the pain and loss reside.
For there is where
I find You, again, with me.
If this is where you are, where you have been, where you fear you'll be sometime soon, all I can say is, give yourself some grace. Beneath it all is the ever-present, undergirding love of God. Stop fighting, stop trying to be so good, so calm, so smooth and LET GO. Go ahead and loose it, not your temper, but your endless need for control and perfection and the smoothness of things going RIGHT. Break the rules and turn the TV in the middle of the day, get out the ice cream, the cookies, the Christmas music, whatever it takes. Run outside, yell and dance and scream if you need to, find an old stick and bang it on the patio til your spent.
Then go back in and hug your needy frightened children to you. Apologize if you need to. Tell them you know how it feels, tell them it's going to be ok even as you listen to and feel the One who holds you and tells you it's going to be ok. Stop trying so hard to hold it all in, hold it all together. No one wants that much perfection, that much goodness from one person. All they really want is to know that you are with them in the middle of it all, just like the One who is with you in the middle of it all too.