Saturday, November 1, 2014

What Does the Fox Soothe?


Recently I put up a Facebook status about my youngest son’s coping mechanism for when he misses his mama. When my wife leaves to run an errand or exercise, or just have some quiet time, our son can’t handle it. He loves his Papa, but he needs his Mama. The wailing and the waterworks start as soon as he realizes she’s about to leave. Then it’s nonstop until he tires himself out and settles for whimpering and whining until he falls asleep or she returns. However, I’ve figured out one thing that will help him to deal with his sense of loss.

Essentially, Enoch loves the “What Does the Fox Say?” video. He asks to listen to it constantly. When Candice left recently I pulled out my phone, opened YouTube, and found the video. When the music started he was distracted. After two viewings he was soothed.

And I posted on Facebook about the incident.
And then I felt a little bit like a hypocrite.

Soothing and Distracting the Hypocrite

My son is three years old. He’s been with us for four months. He spent the first 2 years and 8 months of his life in an orphanage in a far away country, connecting with caregivers and other orphans. He’s just met his parents and his brother. He’s still in the process of attaching to his family. And he sometimes soothes the pain, loneliness, and sense of abandonment that has settled into his soul with a catchy song and flashy video on YouTube.
How silly. How quaint. How …unsophisticated.

Because really, that’s all it is: unsophisticated.
He hasn’t learned to be sophisticated with his coping mechanisms. He hasn’t learned to hide. He hasn’t learned subtlety. He’s a bit more obvious than the rest of us. He’s a bit more obvious than me.

I’ll post on Facebook and get 17 ‘Likes’ exploiting my son’s coping strategy for humorous purposes.
And as each ‘Like’ is recorded my loneliness is soothed.
Other people think I’m clever.
Other people read my posts.
Other people like me.
And I am distracted from my deep gnawing loneliness.


Please don’t think that, because I am acknowledging loneliness, that anything is amiss in my family. Things could always get better, but my wife is amazing and I cherish times with her and my boys. I also wholeheartedly agree with Rich Mullins in stating that loneliness is a constant in human existence.

“Friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is part of our experience, and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness lived together in the same experience.”

Loneliness is something humans deal with for various reasons. We are finite, yet we were created for eternity. We’ve had experiences that settle loneliness deep within. Maybe we were in an orphanage for the first part of our life. Maybe we felt exceedingly awkward and isolated through middle school and into high school (theoretically).

We all distract.
We all soothe.
We fill our loneliness by means of sophisticated mechanisms, crafted and developed over years of living within harsh human society.

I slyly pull out my phone to see if I have any notifications.
I hold a warm cup of coffee and breath in the aroma.
I refresh the page to see if I have any more ‘Likes’.
I text friends with short “check-in” messages and hope to get a response.
I read trivial articles online.
I play games on our iPad.
I scroll through options on Netflix (and sometimes watch something).
I blog…and hope for positive feedback.

Loneliness is part of our experience.  It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun. We try to avoid it. But we don’t have to.
I believe enduring loneliness teaches us about ourselves. I believe self examination happens in the midst of loneliness. I believe growth happens in the midst of loneliness. And ultimately, I believe that loneliness reminds us of our need for the indwelling presence of the Almighty.

As a parent, it’s my job to learn from my own loneliness. It’s my job to be with my sons when they feel alone, to guide them into themselves, and into the Holy God. And when it’s too hard, it’s my job to teach them fortitude, to teach them socially acceptable ways to distract themselves and muscle through the pain and do what needs doing in the moment. Sometimes it hurts too much to tolerate our loneliness. Sometimes it’s unbearable.

Maybe Enoch will learn to sit calmly and contentedly, feeling his sadness, and following it to its source. Maybe he’ll learn to be open and vulnerable. Maybe he’ll feel safe in who he is, valuing people but not needing them, acknowledging sadness and scars in his soul. Maybe he’ll discover he was meant for eternal communion with the Triune God.

But until then, he’ll have Ylvis, and YouTube, and Facebook.
And so will I.
And so will you.

After Reading This

You could turn everything off. Sit in silence by yourself. Allow your thoughts to wander to your sadness.
Acknowledge your need.
Meditate on it.
Open to it.
Learn from it.

Or, if that seems too painful, you can just watch the video below a few times.

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