Tag Archives: bad day

Seepage Issues: Grief Uncovered

A few weeks ago I watched “There Will Be Blood” with my husband: fantastic acting; wretchedly depressing plot. The movie orbits around the search for oil. After an earthquake, puddles of oil bubble up from the ground, evidence of a wealth of black gold just beneath the surface.

I have some seepage problems myself. I can’t always predict it. Sometimes the oddest things will shake it loose. I quite literally start leaking – sneaky tears I can’t hold back. It feels like someone has stuck their fist right down my throat. Evidence of a deep reservoir of grief, just beneath the surface.

It happened again today, in the middle of an important meeting. I don’t usually shy away from discussion about my boys, the two babies that I never took home, but more often than not I get choked up about it – even now, years later, when it is a shadow of the devastation I once felt.

I tell myself to suck it up, to quit being such… a girl. As if that’s a bad thing, to feel things so deeply, to show weakness, to have a heart that is no longer shattered, but still broken in places that matter. And when the embarrassment passes and I finally work out what I should have said or will say next time, I remember that this grief is a precious part of who I am.

Not because I’m some masochistic freak who enjoys the pain. I would much rather laugh than cry. I enjoy life and that mopey schmuck Eeyore has always rubbed me the wrong way. But the broken parts of me are the ones that understand life and faith and joy in a deeper way than I did before.

There is a beautiful picture in the Psalms, of God collecting each of our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). Because each one matters. No matter what we are going through, every tear we cry is important to Him.

One of the most helpful moments I had after the stillbirth of our first child, quite ironically, came from a heavily pregnant co-worker. Her husband was alarmed upon getting home to find her sitting on the ground crying her heart out; she could hardly speak to tell him our sad news. It didn’t change a thing knowing this, but I felt a little less alone, because someone shared our grief for that moment in time.

And now, when it is my turn to comfort someone, I don’t always know the right words to say. I don’t feel any less helpless or awkward than anyone else. And I can’t always understand their unique hurt. But I can mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). I can understand how desperate a dark night of the soul can be, and that sometimes it doesn’t FEEL like God is there, even when we KNOW He is. I know that if you press into that grief and fight your way through it, you can come out the other side a better, though somewhat different person.

Because you never completely outrun the grief. It lurks below the surface. And some days it leaks.

So here’s me, supporting the Kleenex industry for 12 years and counting.


The History of a Tantrum: For the Well Meaning Bystander

Have you ever seen an adult dragging a small child kicking and screaming down the street, stuffing them in a vehicle and peeling off down the road? Just so you know, it might be me. I sometimes wonder if you passers-by have a moment of concern about this situation. I wouldn’t be offended if you took a second look, I’m all about protecting children.

No doubt you would soon notice that A) the shrieking midget in question bears a striking resemblance to her “kidnapper” and B) the perpetrator is exhausted, overwhelmed and most likely close to tears herself. No one WANTS to be that parent, the one getting all the pitying and/or disapproving looks on the way to the grocery checkout. If you think it’s a pain to be stuck on an airplane with a crying baby, try being the Mom who feels the weight of everyone’s displeasure.

I remember the good, old days. The “I have one well-behaved child” days when everything was neat and orderly, and I had all the answers. I knew in theory that there might be more to a situation than I could see, yet my inner dialogue usually went something like this “Tut Tut… listen to that bratty child carry on. Some consistent discipline and clear expectations is just what she needs. I would never let MY child behave like that.”

It’s not that my opinions and experience as a parent and daycare teacher were wrong. Reality is just so much more complicated (and exhausting) than all the theory in the world. I look back at that smug, certain parent I used to be and I cringe. I was so quick to offer answers and advice, so sure that I understood the challenges of parenting… so completely untested.

So, next time you witness a monumental melt-down give me a break. If you have to look, look closer. My daughter may be 7, but she is developmentally delayed and so are her emotions. There may be a long and complex back-story to this split second in history. There may be extenuating circumstances. Or there may be no good reason whatsoever, just a bad day all around.

This afternoon as my howling child trotted down the sidewalk of a busy street, all by herself, in the rain, without a jacket – it was all of the above. She had just had a blood test. It happens every few months and lately, each one is worse than the last. While two lab techs hold her flailing arms down, I try to keep her still, pin her legs down with my own and sing”Jesus Loves Me” in her ear. I haven’t yet found a way to make her understand how necessary this is. No amount of candy bribes, stage appropriate explanations and fun games in the waiting room seem to make a difference. She gives me a look of such utter betrayal each time. Then it gets even worse when they slap on the band-aid, something she hates almost as much as the needle itself. The minute she was off my lap today, she was out the door and down the street with me in hot pursuit.

In the end, it was only a moment in time, a bad moment, but over quickly. She’s happy now, showing off her war wound and telling her daddy all about her “dee-do” (which we think means needle). She is painting a picture with bingo daubers while her sisters are doing a science experiment (aka – messing up my kitchen). And suddenly I’m feeling like a good mom again, but I’m pretty sure I was this afternoon too, even though it didn’t look like it.

So here’s me, with a lot fewer answers, and hopefully, a lot more compassion for the next tantruming child I meet.


My Sunday School Lesson

It was my birthday this weekend and I had BIG plans to do very little. It’s a wonderful family tradition in our house: a day of complete, guilt-free laziness. Of course, since it happened to fall on a Sunday, this wasn’t entirely possible.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit choked when I realized that I would be teaching Sunday School that day. Mind you, in a contemporary church like ours we call it something much more hip and fun-sounding than “Sunday School”. But regardless of the name, I wasn’t looking forward to the workload on this, my special day of sloth.

It’s not a lot – arranging the supplies, reading through the lesson a couple of times, then wrangling some adorable little first graders into some semblance of order until parents arrive for pick-up. I’ve done it a thousand times. In fact, I started teaching Sunday School when I was only 16. After a little quick math, what with it being my 36th birthday, I realized that this means 20 years of nose-picking, pee-pee dances, barely audible answers and completely unrelated stories about parents/siblings/pets/somebody-they-once-met-somewhere-they-can’t-remember.

And though I may have dragged my feet upstairs, by the time I was sitting around that table in an absurdly small chair with ten sweet little faces and three eager helpers, I was kind of glad to be there. We talked about gratitude, that we always have something to be grateful for.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thesselonians 5:18)

Closing our eyes, we imagined happy circumstances (a surprise trip to Disneyland), sad circumstances (too sick to go to the birthday party) and frustrating circumstances (losing the ice cream off of your cone), then came up with a list of all the things we could be grateful for in each situation. Being alive, parents who love us, siblings to play with, not getting friends sick, more birthday parties still to come, a funny story to tell… they hardly needed any prompting. I’m sure our Pastor preached a fine sermon that day, but I doubt it could have done me as much good as that table full of 6-year-olds.

I’m 36 now (or “almost 40” according to my husband) and I keep coming back to this same lesson. I don’t need to be thankful for bad things or, as I once thought, pretend that they are actually good in some twisted form of Christianized stoicism. But wherever my life ends up, good or bad, I need to make it a place of gratitude.

Immediately after I finished writing this post, before I had a chance to post it, I had a chance to put this into practice. Not the easy kind of gratitude I found on my birthday while I sat with my feet up on the couch, watching my husband clean the house and spending quality time with my new i-phone. Not the kind that spontanteously wells up in me as I eat the chocolate cake my daughter made for me and open even more presents (fair trade chocolate bars – yes!). This kind of gratitude is hard.

It is the kind of gratitude that hears disappointing news about a friend’s health, but chooses to see the time we have with him as a gift and the skills of the doctors as a blessing. Even while I wonder why life is so cruel and so unfair. I hate cancer.

It’s hard for me to see the silver lining when once again we are “not what they are looking for in an adoptive family”. What’s wrong with us? It’s been more than two years and I can’t spend the rest of my life in waiting mode. Yet, I am thankful for the things we’ve learned along the way, the deep conversations and the wrestling with who we are as people, as parents, and as a family. I am thankful that we can enjoy our family holiday without wondering if we will get a call. I am thankful to have more time to organize and paint the future baby’s room. I am thankful that we are free to find the right child for us.

So here’s me, thankful for another year and the circle of first graders who taught me an important lesson this week.


**it Happens.

I was in fine form this morning. I lurched out of bed and a curious smell wafted down the hallway. Nothing says “Good morning” quite like this: something our family fondly (okay, not so fondly) refers to as a “craptastrophe.”

And it was all downhill from there. The big girls fought about absurd and unimportant things for hours on end. The checkout lady at the grocery store was the slowest moving land mammal on the planet. My usually attentive husband was watching a mind-numbing golf tournament all day.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, they don’t call them truisms for nothing. I was selfish, resentful, impatient, angry and altogether ugly today; so the whole family followed suit.

As my 9 year old stood before me weeping, I kicked the rant into high gear. The yelling was beyond a tone of voice. It felt good to embrace the rage. When I was finally done dressing her down, she hiccupped, “Can… I .. uh… just… uh… say… something?” Grudgingly I allowed her to speak.

This happens often when she’s in trouble. Regardless of how clear the situation, she launches into her version of events, hoping to explain her superior perspective. I suspect she may end up becoming a lawyer like her aunt.

Usually, this only gets her in more trouble. Today, however; at the end of her halting explanation, I was appalled to realize that the entire thing had been a misunderstanding on my part. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong.

That was the low point.

There’s no other way to say it: shittiest parent in the world.

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I wrote this two weeks ago and haven’t quite brought myself to post it. What would be the point? Not only is it an exceptionally un-flattering peek into my world, it is just so depressing.

But then I remember how that day began:  Craptastrophe. For us, this goes beyond a poopy diaper. Thankfully, what was once a bi-weekly experience is now a rare opportunity to test our parenting metal. Our daughter occasionally dabbles in something the developmental psychologists call “smearing”. Perhaps it is a convenient medium for her artistic endeavors. Perhaps she is trying to clean it up. Whatever the reason for this bad habit, when things are very quiet and very smelly, we know what to expect.

I’m sure you have the mental picture: it’s on the sheets, on the walls, on her clothes, in her hair… And if that’s not disgusting enough, she gives us her usual toothy grin. Yep, it’s in her teeth too.

Even now, when we gag and complain and offer each other outrageous favours to do the clean up, she’s still cute and sweet and altogether wonderful to us. We love her just as much even when she’s covered head-to-toe in shit.

Cause that’s what family does. They love me, not matter what: even the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad version of myself. Whatever clean up needs to happen – an apology, several apologies, an anger management course, a time out… I know that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.

So here’s us, shovelling it together.


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