Two times, this weird thing has happened to me.
I am a believer in a sort of mental discipline, as I mentioned here (did I even tell y’all about that interview?) and generally I like to think that I can exercise control over what I think about and keep it on a track that is at least in some sense productive.
Two times: once was this random time in the middle of the night, with no preamble, no recognizable cause, no trigger; and the other was Wednesday night (July 3), this time with possibly a slightly more explicable setoff – I get this very short, very strangely specific little vignet, like a gif, that kind of plays over and over in my head like an attack.
It looks like this:
Our little guy is pulled up to standing holding onto something like a coffee table, as he does pretty much all the time that he’s not asleep. He is making his silly faces and his silly noises, ba-ba-ba, practicing squatting down and up. He reaches for something he’s not supposed to reach for. Somebody’s hand grabs him just below the shoulder – you know how people do? – and yanks him off the ground and away from it, shouting. He starts crying, not in a whining or belligerent way, but in a genuinely baffled and surprised and hurt way, because he doesn’t know what he did wrong.*
See, I don’t even know if this is fair, but that little picture in my head is in some weird way associated with the other places he might end up living, if things turn out a certain way.
I’ve talked about how it has to just be a discipline, about how there is no point in thinking about what might be or could be or whatever, because it might not come to pass anyway, and even if it does, there is nothing I can do one way or the other to affect it, so it’s just borrowing trouble and tying myself up in knots for absolutely no discernable reason.
But it’s like sometimes that pops into my head, and it’s like a battle. It’s seriously kind of an almost violent (in a mental sort of way) struggle for control over where my thoughts are going to go.
I know it’s pointless to think about, but it won’t leave. Then I think about the kids I’ve known that have come from an absolute war zone, and have (what look to the uninitiated like behavioral problems but are actually) phenomenally amazing survival instincts and tools. I think what if he does go back, and he’s yelled at or smacked for things that he does, and he doesn’t even know why? What if it would be better, in a certain part of the world, to know how to bite back?What if all of our soft voices and hugs and gentle re-direction have actually set him up to be completely unprepared?
(This is all, you understand, trappings and decoration on the hull of the Titanic that is: The Idea Of Him Leaving At All.)
But I know better; I know the importance of “felt safety” and affection and rest and consistency at this age; I know how no matter what happens, it will help him be a well-adjusted, empathetic human being; I even ambitiously believe that the fact that he is a confident, sweet, relaxed, joyful child might even have an entire ripple effect into a community that he might end up in.
But still, sometimes it’s an absolute arm wrestle. Pull one way, push the other, pull and push and pull and push.
Something hit me this morning though, during a prayer meeting with my coworkers, when my boss prayed for us to have peace. The truth is, two times this has come at me, in the dark and out of the blue… two times in almost 7 months.
The peace that passes understanding.
I don’t think it’s discipline of my mind at all, not really. Sometimes it is – choosing which bird to let nest in your hair**, as it were.
But I think maybe it’s more of people, like my mom and my boss and my friends, praying for us to have peace that makes no sense. That is why the VAST majority of the time, I am still able to grab onto the fact that this is right, what we are doing is right, and it is wonderful, and you guys – I have had almost SEVEN MONTHS so far with the most precious baby on the planet. How UNBELIEVABLY lucky am I???
And that beats any What Ifs, it really does.
*I’m not saying you’re a terrible parent if you pull your kid away from like open flames or deadly snakes by their upper arms. I know that we will have to have it out, battle-of-wills style, at some point in our parenting career, for sure. But right now, we just don’t struggle about things. If he has something he shouldn’t, I try to trade it for something he should have, and say Thank you when he lets go of it voluntarily for the new thing, because at his age (10 mo) it’s literally his JOB to be checking out everything around him so I’m not about to get mad at him for it.
* (cont’d) Also, while I’m on my soapbox, I do believe that a lot of the time people discipline their kids or get mad at their kids for something the kid seriously never intended to do in rebellion or antagonistically and if you’d just explain it, you wouldn’t have to set yourself up to be in a dadgum FIGHT all the time.
* (cont’d, Part II) Thus concludes my expert parenting advice, as the least experienced parent I currently know.
**Oh come on, you know the saying, right? You can’t choose if a bird flies over your head but you can choose if you’re going to let it nest in your hair. Like, you can’t be blamed for every individual thought that pops into your head, but you control the ones that stay there and take root. If you’ll follow me through my metaphor-mash.