I was lying on the couch tonight watching Home Alone with the kids. Kai was rolling around on the floor, unable to hold still. He was antsy. It was just after 6pm and he had not had a nap. It is hard to squeeze one in with our church schedule so I was trying to keep him awake long enough that I could just put him down early for the night.
I started to doze off when something slammed into my head, knocking my glasses askew. I braced myself before I fell off the couch and then I was slammed again.
Kai was running at me from the other side of the room and grabbing my head and then backing up and doing it again. He was making a frustrated sound and I could see that he (nor I) was going to be able to finish the movie.
I carried him upstairs and laid him in his bed, even though I knew it would mean he would be up late tonight.
“Lay by me mom,” he said, in the way that only I understand.
I laid down by him in his bed and he grabbed my neck and squeezed it tight. He was asleep in less than one minute.
As I held my warm, sleeping, freshly-turned three year old, I thought of a meeting Brett and I attended recently to learn about some assessments that had been done on Kai to see if he qualified for a preschool and speech therapy program.
When he was being tested he completely lost it. Completely. I was across the room talking to the psychologist. The speech therapist and preschool teacher were with Kai in a corner of the room asking him to count some beads. I could hear in his voice, behind me, that his frustration level was building, but I didn’t want to interfere.
The protests escalated to crying and exclamations of defiance. It was nothing I hadn’t heard on a daily basis, but it was unsettling to hear it in that setting.
Soon Kai came running across the room and jumped on my lap and squeezed me while hiding his head against my shoulder. I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted them to be able to finish their assessment and I didn’t want to interfere, but he was very agitated.
I stood up and took his hand and walked him back to the table he had been sitting at. I sat him down and talked gently to him to calm him down. Nothing helped. He did not want to count beads and he was not going to do it. Each time I tried to sit him down on the chair or redirect him for the camera he was trying to grab, he lashed out at me with his little fists. One time he lunged at me like he was going to bite me, but the teacher caught him and he missed his mark.
His eyes were red and tears streaked down his face and I couldn’t catch his eye or connect with him. I was near tears myself, but was trying desperately to keep control while surrounded by therapists, teachers, and the psychologist.
We finally were able to redirected him to an art easel and we quickly finished our meeting.
Two weeks later, as I sat across from the same group of women that had witnessed Kai’s breakdown, we were told he had made it into the program. As we talked I asked them about why he lashes out at me as he had at the previous meeting. I felt hurt that he always chose to hurt ME when he was frustrated or upset and I wanted to know what I was doing wrong.
One of the therapists paused and then looked at me and said, “He feels safe with you. He knows that no matter what he does to you, you will still love him and protect him and care for him. He needs to get it out, so he turns to the person he most trusts. You are his safe place to fall.”
As I lay in bed with him tonight I thought about that again, as I have many times since then. It hasn’t stopped me from getting angry when I get smacked in the head. It hasn’t kept me from raising my voice or sending him to him room when I just can’t take it anymore. (Although, it has stretched my limits a smidgeon.)
But it has made me view it in a new perspective. A much better and a much broader perspective. I am grateful to be the one that he trusts enough to know that I will show him love and forgiveness when he needs it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I sat in church today listening to a lesson on trusting in the Lord (and others) it made me think about how this same concept applies to all the members of my family.
I cringe at times at the things I hear my children say to each other in a moment of anger. I cringe at times at what I hear MYSELF say at times when I am angry, whether to my kids or my husband. Sometimes we use a tone with each other that we would never use to our friends, coworkers, neighbors or even a stranger. When I see my daughter grab her brother in frustration and pinch him I find myself repeating, “You would never do that to your friends!”
Well, of course she wouldn’t. She knows her brother is going to walk away and come back fifteen minutes later excited to share a new plan to rule the world (or the house). He will forgive her and look at her with adoration again long before the fingernail marks have disappeared from his arm.
This doesn’t mean that I think treating each other poorly is okay. I don’t. I would love for unkind words to never be spoken again in our family. We do show each other love much more frequently than not, but there are those times we are weak and we regret the things we say.
As my family learns to curb our tongues and watch our tones we also learn about love and forgiveness. We learn to say “I’m sorry” and we learn to say “It is okay, I still love you.”
I have watched so many of my Facebook and blogging friends write about what they are thankful for this month and I have not chimed in.
This month, I am grateful for my family and for feeling “safe”.