My Undoing - When a parent gets hit
I am undone.
What is your undoing? Is there something in your life that has just laid you out bare, stripped you of all you thought you knew? What caused you to become unglued at the seams and your whole world is threatening to fall apart?
I was thinking about this question today as I worked outside. Yep, I was working outside in the heat of an Arizona summer and …dun, dun, dun…I liked it. I like the feeling of sweat. It feels like a cleansing to me. Like all the impurities of my week are leaving my body and I have a chance to just sweat it out. I don’t exercise, other than chasing around my four kids. But, I assume that this is one of the reasons why people enjoy working out. Or maybe, this is the reason that some of my Native American people do the sweat lodge. Or maybe, the Finnish have an answer to life that we, in America, don’t yet understand when every house is equipped with a sauna.
I needed that cleansing today because I started my day with being hit. That was my undoing. Disability has various moments of undoing. It can come with every missed milestone and every persistent behavior. Today it was hitting. I know that I am not alone in this undoing.
Now, don’t go calling the authorities. My son has autism. Most days he is very sweet but just doesn’t know his own strength. Then, there are other days where he hits on purpose. You know it’s on purpose because you can see it in his eyes and in the snicker of his smile. Today was one of the on purpose days. We have tried everything in the book to figure out why he does it. Attention? Needs not being met? Medication change? Did we do something in the wrong order? Weather? Gluten? Dairy? Parasites? And the list could go on. We don’t know why he gets aggressive and neither do the specialists.
On the days when he hits, how do I respond? Most days, I try to move on with a straight face. Not give him negative reinforcement. I try to distract him or start the routine over. I try to communicate what appropriate touch is like. Today was different. Today, I just had to walk away because being hit by a 7 year old is not just a love tap anymore. And did I mention that he is really fast. He will swipe at a moments notice. Sometimes I think the shock of it is more assaulting than the actual hit. If you see me with bruising and scratches, that is why. Dan and I have already talked about how it may not be safe for me to be a stay at home mom, if he gets stronger than me.
So, I had a hard time returning to the routines as usual, making breakfast, getting ready for summer school, getting the kids dressed. It was difficult to reengage and I told my husband, “I have given my entire life for this kid and what do I get in return? Being hit! What's the point?”
I see the flaw in my service to my family. “What do I get in return?” My love today was conditional.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that it is wrong for him to hit me. I will keep trying to figure him out. We will keep trying to teach him that hitting others is not funny. But it is immensely hard to do when you don’t understand what is being understood. Is it that he doesn’t know what gentle means? Is it that he just wants to be funny but doesn’t understand that two people have to enjoy something for it to be funny? Is he possessed? Is he overwhelmed? Does he just need attention?
God was gracious to reveal the nature of that conditional love and move me toward repentance. Still working that one out. Running from the ideology that I can have joy when my kids are performing correctly. Even when it is the basic performance of “come here” or “stop.” My joy will falter if that is my hope.
Working outside today reminded me of my true joy! God not only used sweating in the blistering heat to give me a cleansing of the physical body but used pulling apart pallets to help cleanse my mind. As I was taking a crowbar to wood, I started to think about Jesus. He was a carpenter. (Man, am I glad he chose that as a profession and not a politician) He would have taken apart old pieces of furniture or wood pieces and refurbished them into something new. He would have felt the pride of making something well. I wonder if he thought of the joy in refurbishing a broken life? I wonder if he thought of taking a human life and turning it into something different? He would have gotten bruises on his hands breaking down the wood. I wonder if He thought of the beatings that He would get going to the cross? Or the emotional bruises He would get by being abandoned? He would have done the hard work of pulling out nails. I wonder if He thought of the nails that were going to go into his hands? I wonder if He thought of my undoing? He would have sanded down old pieces to make them smooth again. I wonder if He thought of the worn life of His child, me, and how He was smoothing out the rough spots? I bet that his profession prepared him to love better.
Yep, breaking down pallets today helped remind me of my true joy, Jesus. It has to be found in Him or I will perish. It has to be grounded in the good news that He has already conquered my worst enemy and that is not autism. My worst enemy is sin. Nothing, not autism, can ever take that away. What can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Autism can bring some pretty hard days but it will never bring a day of eternal separation from God. It is not that powerful!
For that, I rejoice that I have been called an overcomer. Not because I have the ability to overcome autism, but because God, in Christ Jesus, has conquered sin and death. Oh death where is your victory?! Oh death where is your sting?!