Monday, July 9, 2012

Balance and the Buffet

When I was teaching, you couldn't go a year without having at least one child who you just kinda felt was smothered a bit.  You do your best not to make assumptions, but there are some you feel sorry for because their parents don't care at all, and there are some who can't seem to breathe.  My mind jumps immediately to the mom we saw at one school, standing on the sideline of a junior high football game with her son.  Yes, he was supposedly on the team, but I think he was of my kind... you know, rode the bench.  Good kid, as I remember.  But sitting in the stands, seeing this poor kid standing there on the sideline with his helmet sitting square atop his head, squealing "ouch" and "stop it, mom!" while his mother attempted to cram it straight down by smacking it with her hand.

That poor guy.  Yes, I know mom meant well.  But sometimes meaning well gets in the way.  Misplaced or over applied, our well-meant care might make things infinitely harder on our kids.

I'm not talking about checking the fifth time to make sure they're breathing when they're newborns, or looking twice and counting heads to make sure everyone's out of the van (good idea when it's this hot, folks).  That stuff is normal, and actually a good idea.  And we can all see that maybe (obviously without knowing the back story) the helmet-cramming mom might have had good reason to be embarrassing her son this way.  I have no idea.  And in the other months of the time I spent as a registrar at a private school (incredibly random job for me, no?) I saw kids move in and out, out and in. So many of them had reasons other than the prestige of a private school (which is hilarious because it wasn't that kind of private school) or because they started there.  There were parents desperately trying to figure out how to help their child.  For one reason or the other, little Johnny was drowning. Maybe it was public schools' fault, maybe their peers' fault... maybe this place will help.

And it's not just there.  There are so many ways that, looking back, I can see that parents here and there were struggling to strike a balance.  Somehow, I guess I thought that wouldn't happen to us.  Maybe I thought we were smarter than they were and would have the perfect answer for everything.  Actually, I'm sorry to say that I'm pretty sure that's the truth.

As you know, that balance has definitely not escaped us.  It's not where he'll go to school (although homeschool is never off the table completely), whether or not to get him an iPhone, or how late he should stay out riding his bike or if he should be allowed out at all.

No, these questions came slowly out of nowhere, like a storm building slowly over the horizon.  You see nothing at first, then the edges, then the dark clouds, and then it finally begins to rain like crazy.  Thunder, lightning, even a tornado... like last spring... when you hunker down in the shelter (or in our case, the hall) and pray.  But there's a funny thing about the shelter.  You can see nothing.  You can't really tell if it's safe to come out.  Someone has to get brave and open the door.

We're in a place like that with Ryan so often.  At church yesterday, we didn't have communion.  Usually we to every Sunday.  Once the sermon is over and we've spoken the words of institution, one of us will go to the nursery and get Richie and Maelynn.  This is a family thing.  We walk forward together, Eric and I partake of the elements, and the kids walk to the front with us holding our hands.  Then we all walk back together and sit.  Shortly after that, the music ends and church is over after the benediction.  Well, except yesterday.

Toward the end of the sermon, Ryan started to ask for Richie and Mae-mae.  "Go get Richie and Mae-mae" he says in his newscaster voice.  Somewhere between not getting Richie and Mae-mae and the organized chaos that is summer fellowship lunches (which are wonderful), Ryan wasn't handling things.  While Eric was taking a turn calming Ryan, who decided that screaming and hitting aren't enough and writhing on the floor was a nice addition to his meltdown routine, I visited with our friend H.

For so many reasons, she gets it.  We talked about why it's hard when it's different.  And that sometimes, it just has to be.  Different has to happen.  We must throw him a curve ball now and again if we ever expect him to live in the world.  But at the same time, he has to be safe.  It's our job to strike the balance between curve balls and routine.

There's not an easy way to define those boundaries.  They're a bit like skin. Flexible yet protective, repairable if we've gone too far.  Well, mostly.  And we can't always see that far enough ahead to prepare for everything.  We thought we'd simply go to the lunch yesterday, no big deal.  But with Ryan on the edge of another meltdown and Mae due for a nap, it just wasn't happening.  So instead of lunch with friends and then groceries, we went home.  Not before we tried lunch and it wasn't working.

Later, after the kids had a chance to reset and rest a bit, we were able to go back out and get dinner and groceries, with Ryan even eating someplace we hadn't tried.  True, he ate chicken nuggets and fries from the Chinese buffet, but hey.  He ate.  It was different, and he ate.  And the fries were shaped differently.  We left having had a great time as a family, kinda wondering why we hadn't tried that before.

Then we looked at the sky outside as we left, and I remembered.  It had been storming, but the storm had passed, leaving a damp feel to the air.  The murky blue storm clouds hung low over the horizon, reminding us of what we'd been through.

Six months ago we wouldn't have dared enter a restaurant that didn't have a burger or pizza on the menu.  But with the blessing of ABA therapy and a dedicated, loving therapist we got brave and peeked out to see if the storm had passed.

And then we remembered that, if the day had gone according to plan, we'd have been driving through the big, bad storm that was surely over the highway we take to Waco and home.

Days like that... striking the balance, unsure of the outcome... remind us of how grateful we have to be for the sovereignty of God.  We don't know what the future holds at all.  But we do know Who holds the future.

Thanks be to God! 

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