Sunday, May 3, 2015

The End of Parenting

The Context

I think it started as a lack-of-caffeine headache, a slight throbbing around my temples.

Outdoor Adventure, PCM
I was with the boys at the Portland Children’s Museum while Candice got a haircut and facial in the city. I figured I needed caffeine and decided we’d just have to stop at a Starbucks on the way home (which we probably would have done anyway), no big deal.

The throbbing got a bit more intense as the pre-paid parking was running out and it seemed to be almost time for Candice to be done. I herded the boys toward the exit, we stopped briefly to pet a miniature pony just outside the entrance to the museum and made our way to the car.

My belly was starting to feel funny and my back was starting to feel more sore than usual. I thought I might be hungry so I ate my peanut butter and jelly as I entered the address into our gps.

My lower back was getting worse and the space between my shoulders felt like someone had grabbed it and was pulling it tight. The throbbing in my temples was creeping around to the back of my head.

I drove into downtown from the museum, found parking, texted Candice that we were waiting for her, and gave the boys each a juice box.

Then it hit me hard.
My back ached all over.
The tightness in my back and my upset stomach were causing me to burp to let off the pressure.
Pain was circling the top of my head like a crown and cascading down on all sides.
The upper back pain had spread to my neck, both sides of the back of my neck tightening up so that it hurt to turn my head.
Candice came out. She keeps some pills in her purse; I immediately took two Tylenol and two Ibuprofen and tried to stretch outside the car while she got ready to drive home.
Our gps was glitchy and wouldn’t direct us out of the city so I directed Candice out of the city between my moans of pain.

I was burping whenever I could sit up and take a breath.
Candice handed me a bag to puke in if it came to that.
I didn’t think I’d need it with all the burping clearing out my stomach.
For some reason I was yawning uncontrollably between burps and moans of pain.
The base of my skull felt like something had dug its claws into it and was twisting them.
I developed a cramp in my shoulder, I have no idea how.

My entire head and back were aching at this point. Lines of pain were streaking through my face. My eyes were trying to get out.
Tears were coming to my eyes. I would have cried but I couldn’t catch my breath.
Throughout the drive Candice kept asking if she needed to take me to the hospital; I declined because I was trying to be tough and not make a big deal about it.

The pain was to the degree that I seriously wondered if the devil was tormenting me or God was trying to get my attention. I’m not sure if I think either of them truly work that way, but I wasn’t thinking theologically.

My stomach started bubbling up. I told Candice to pull over. She said to use the bag. I wasn’t keen on that. She moved to the right lane. We drove onto a bridge, no shoulder available on the road to pull onto.  Just after the bridge was a stopped car in the shoulder; we pulled over just past that.

My stomach had reached emergency status. I threw up my PB&J.  My most prominent thought was, “I hope the Tylenol and ibuprofen have already made it into my system.

I got back in the car. My stomach felt better but everything else was pretty much the same.
We made it home.
The only thing left between a glass of water, more pills, and bed, was getting everything in from the car…including our two boys.

The Incident

Isaiah had slept most of the way home. I grabbed a few items to carry in and unbuckled his seat belt and gently woke him up.  Candice got Enoch out of his car seat. Both boys were a little grumpy and wanted to be carried inside.

As you can tell from the context I’ve shared, I wasn’t in top shape for much at this point.

I carried in a bag and a sweatshirt. Enoch gave up asking Candice to carry him and asked me, I told him my back hurt and my hands were full.  I convinced him to let me hold his hand rather than carry him. I remember the walk to the house in my mind’s eye as though it was through limited vision. I think I was squinting through the pain as I walked.
I got Enoch in and turned to see how Candice was doing with Isaiah. 

Grumpy Isaiah had planted himself at our backyard gate. He was giving me his angry face, a momentous stare-down.
I tried to talk to him.
“Son, my back hurts, but I’ll carry you in from here.”
“Son, I know you’re grumpy because you just woke up, but can you come inside please?”
“Son, what do you need?”

He walked around the corner of the gate. I followed him.  I didn’t want him out of sight even though he wasn’t far from home.

“Isaiah, I really need to go inside. My head hurts and my back hurts. Can I carry you in?”
“Isaiah, I can’t deal with you being grumpy right now. Can you please talk to me?”

Still starring me down, he turned the other corner. I followed.

“Isaiah, please come inside.”
“How about this: do you want to go in another door in the building then you can knock on the apartment door and mama can let you in?”
“Isaiah, you have to talk to me. Just let me know what you want and I can help you.”

He didn’t say anything. He pointed and grunted at something but I didn’t know what he meant.

I had had enough.
I said, “Fine. Come inside when you’re ready”
And I walked in the house, took two more Tylenol, and crashed on my bed.

I didn’t want to leave Isaiah outside. We live on campus, and it’s fairly safe, but we don’t know everyone. I wanted to be patient and give him all the attention that he needed in his just-woke-up-and-grumpy state.
But I just couldn’t do it.

I had reached a threshold beyond which I just couldn’t parent anymore.
As I lay in bed trying find a position that allowed all my muscles to stretch as much as possible, I thought to myself,
“I’m glad God doesn’t reach a threshold like that.”

The Kingdom

I believe God is the True and Heavenly Father. I believe that those who trust in the finished work of Christ are welcomed into His family, His Kingdom.
I try to parent my children how I believe God parents his children.
But I often fail at this goal.

No matter how grumpy we are, God still Fathers us.
No matter how stubborn we are, God still loves us.
No matter how much we back away, God still follows us.
No matter how much we hide, God still sees us.
No matter how long we refuse to speak, God still listens to us.
No matter if we limit our communication to grunting and pointing, God still understands us. 

I don’t think God gets headaches, but it’s fair to say he’s got a lot going on. One look at my Facebook feed would lead me to believe that God has more to do than deal with my petty anger, strife, sadness, and rebellion.
But he never walks away.
He never lets go. 

I don’t think giving up on Isaiah in that moment makes me a bad father. I bet most fathers have had an experience like that at some point or another (and maybe the context I shared bought me a little grace from any of you who might judge). Giving up on Isaiah shows that I’m finite; it shows that I’m human.

But God is not finite.
God is infinite and loving and perfect.
And His perfect parenting knows no end.

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