Monday, September 13, 2010

try, try again

So it continues. We were having the most wonderful Sunday. Martin made it through his first visit to a new Sunday School class for children ages 6 and 7. We went out for breakfast afterward. Martin ate lots of pancakes and was polite to the waitress who served us. In the afternoon, we took a long hike in a local park. Martin climbed fallen trees, found old bird feathers, and gathered some acorns. It was all so lovely.

Then we went to our Sunday evening dinner group. And I must admit some of my own mistakes here. I was watching Martin's sister and also trying to eat, so I didn't always have my eyes on Martin. I noticed a few times that he was flustered about sharing some balls that he and other kids were kicking around the yard. I saw that the play was fairly rough and tumble. Martin took a whack in the face from another child. Then he delivered one in return. I took him aside for a time out, mostly hoping that he could cool down. Things didn't go as planned.

Martin refused to sit down. He kept jumping up at me and flailing his arms. Hoping to get him away from other people, I took him to a small side room. There, things got worse. He started to kick me. I couldn't get him to sit in a chair for even a moment. He even spit at me, which was a new low. He was utterly out of control. Since my husband was at a meeting, I had to ask another man at the group to hold Martin for me. I couldn't manage him myself.

Being held by someone other than a parent made Martin even more mad, or afraid, or something. I left the room, trying to figure out what to do. Within minutes, I decided that we should just go home immediately. I went back to the side room to get Martin and asked if he was ready to walk to the car. He said that he was, but he was still crying. He told me that he didn't want to be held, that he just wanted to go home. We did go home. I cleaned up his face. We ate some cereal together. And then he laid beside me in bed. Soon he started to hide under the covers, pretending to be in a chrysalis. He emerged as a butterfly, flapping his arms with a big smile on his face. For him, it was as if the events of the hour before hadn't happened. I, however, can't seem to forget that my kid spit on me.

I used to think that we were working toward something called "better." But I'm beginning to think that such a notion is only a set-up for a letdown. Every success Martin has leads to more integration with the "normal" world. And most of his new encounters with "normal" have not gone well. I know we have to keep challenging Martin to try new things, otherwise he'll never progress. But this process sometimes makes me think that we're destined for intermittent and never-ending experiences of disaster. Every new encounter is a potential trauma for him, and therefore, for us.

Some days I feel strong enough for it. Yesterday and today, I don't.


  1. My forearms bear the clawmarks and bruises of a trip to the beach last week and unfortunately spitting is par for the course here too. Thanks for sharing so candidly. Sometimes it helps immensely to know that we're not the only ones. Other times, nothing much helps. Hugs.

  2. Jen~
    Your post today resonates with something Henri Nouwen said:
    "Many people live with the unconscious or conscious expectation that eventually things will get better; wars, hunger, poverty, oppression, and exploitation will vanish; and all people will live in harmony. Their lives and work are motivated by that expectation. When this does not happen in their lifetimes, they are often disillusioned and experience themselves as failures.

    But Jesus doesn't support such an optimistic outlook. He foresees not only the destruction of his beloved city Jerusalem but also a world full of cruelty, violence, and conflict. For Jesus there is no happy ending in this world. The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world's problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost."

    As you said, being faithful can be exhausting. And when success is so elusive, it can be incredibly discouraging. May you have strength for your journey, and know that you are doing holy work-- being faithful in loving, caring, and trying.

    Jen HS

  3. So sorry to hear about Martin's rough evening, Jen. Thinking of you and hoping today is a little better.

  4. *hugs*. I've been hit and kicked many a time. My 9 year old recently swung at me in front of a whole bunch of people. His anger seems to be intensifying when it hits, and he's too old and too big to be physically contained. So I can relate. But he can also do things now he couldn't do before. Maybe the anger and falling apart is part of the 2 steps forward, 1 step back. At least I'd like to think we're on an upward trajectory. And it sounds like Martin is trying lots of new things, so maybe he is, too. I look forward to hearing if the behavioral counselor is of help.

  5. Jen:

    I believe that one of the gifts of a faith community is that they can keep holding the light for us on the days when we're simply not able. None of us can do it every day. I am holding you close in community now, holding the light for you until you can hold it again. And there are many, many of us out here. We love you.

  6. Thinking of you and wishing it wasn't so hard. What a lucky, lucky, lucky boy Martin is to have you for a mom.

  7. This post sounds a lot like my son. He's normally okay but the trantrums come and recently he was biting, kicking, scratching, spitting on me, etc and it was awful. My son is getting stronger and harder to restrain and so I can relate. Love and prayers...