| Musings |

Let There Be Light    

      “You can acknowledge it now, or you can acknowledge it later, but it’s there. It’s not going away”

In the Beginning: Land of astonishing emptiness. Barren black fixed above fathomless abyss. G-dly Presence hovering over the water’s depths.

Blank eyes stare from the inside out.  Suffused in dark humor; a hint of impenetrable, deep distance. Nary a fragile spark of life shines forth.

And on the outside? Explosions, endless explosions. Incessant chatter, constant noise, screaming, screaming, screaming. See him here, see him there, a little life that’s moving, moving. Too short, too long, too fast, too slow, being, being?  Hardly. Repeat, repeat, repeat, in the whirl of this darkening storm.

The best definitions describe frequency, intensity, duration — and patterns. But why don’t we start and I’ll let you judge.

My inner clock tells me it’s the middle of the night. It’s pitch-black outside. I turn to take in my son’s shadowed form and a squint of the glowing clock that tells me it’s 2 a.m. Shouts and screams and crying, “Hush” and “Shh…” and “Please!” The eruptions finally settle, and I head back to bed, all too cognizant that we’ll be seeing that luminescent, incendiary “2:00” every night this week.

Perched on stools in the breakfast nook, it’s not much different. Bowl of cereal on the table melding in an amorphous blob. Rejected spoon nearby. A cute boy too far away from his breakfast. And shrieks and cries: “Give me this!” but “Not that way!” and before you take a moment’s breath, “Where is it already?!?”

Morning wakings at six, then five, then four. For months on end, because how do you stop a pattern? Think about dressing a toddler once, twice, a third time, again and again — for 45 minutes straight. Think about the tantrums, the fighting, the two-year-long toilet-training, the screams when anyone comes too close. The 2 a.m. strategy sessions, held an average of five and a half times a week.

At my wit’s end, still, I reach out to show him (and me) that I’m his mother. To hug him, to stroke him, to hold him close and safe. To caress the scrapes, to calm his fears, to kiss away his tears. Then panic strikes; he whirls from reach and shrieks at the slightest touch. No sweet bedtime snuggles to set everything right, in his world and between us.

My mother, my sisters, my neighbor’s cousin’s friend, we consulted them all to no avail. That was him — untouchable, unreachable from the youngest age. He shared in our world in the most unpredictable of ways, alternately delighting us with his “tricks” and quickly retreating at our hopeful overtures. So we lived day by day, seeking out moments of light and of joy while fighting the hard-enduring patterns that tore us apart.

Creation: A moment of dedication, a prayer of words, and from the corners of the universe bursts the glowing warmth of connecting light.

Strange as it sounds, our light came with an (informal) diagnosis. From a wise old friend who said, “Leah, these are patterns.”

“All kids have their things,” I said, “why must you see patterns?”

“Leah, you see it,” she countered. “You can acknowledge it now, or you can acknowledge it later, but it’s there. It’s not going away.”

I was quiet, but in my heart, I said, “Okay.”

Suddenly the years of shushing the skeptical voices in my mind, the ever-mocking chiding — “It’s just normal kid stuff, why are you making a big fuss?” were over.

Now the challenge was real and present, and I was freed to see it, and deal with it. I was also free to see my precious, innocent son beneath all this… mess? And I set my sights on him.

It was then I discovered how our thoughts and our words are endowed with the power of light. First to envision it, then to bring it into being. To see a hurting little boy beneath the screaming. To intuit the cute and creative child who couldn’t fathom where he’d fallen apart, and to bring his strengths to the fore. The power to take a deep shuddering breath (or two) and say, “It’s okay. This is not the real ‘him.’ My son is sweet, he’s funny, he’s kind. His challenges have brought him here.”

I think that’s the sentence I repeated most, through bedtimes and mealtimes and midnight wakings. “This is not him.” This is not who he is. He’s lovable, he’s good, he’s adorable. He’s… loving even?

My son loves to learn, he doesn’t love to cry. My son thrives on friendship, he doesn’t mean to fight. He’s been dealt a challenge, he’s having a tantrum, but this is not him. He doesn’t know how it started, he definitely doesn’t know how to stop. But this is not him! It’s not him.

The consultations continued, the tips and the tricks and the therapy, but through the good days and the bad days I said it: “This is not him.”

Today was just one of those mornings. Pair-less shoe, stuck zipper, definitely the wrong lunch. Strain to fasten the seatbelt on a sullen, squirmy child and drive to school. Muttering in the back seat, rhythmic kicks to my chair. Just breathe, just breathe.

We arrive. Head up the gray stairs s-l-o-w-l-y, nudging, nudging all the way. He jumps into the classroom, instantly taken with the morning’s what-who-wheres with his friends. They’re all standing there, elbowing for wiggle room and talking rights, when I call out my regular, “Bye! Have a great day!”

Usually the conversation continues, and I turn to go. But today — the chatter breaks, as my son slips away for just a moment. His eyes reach for mine as he runs forward, his little arms outstretched. His small and earnest strides eat up the rows of tiled floor ahead. The sun is warm and it casts light across his face, delicate features upturned as he nears.

As the classroom chatter flows and fades, his eyes lock on mine. I spread my arms wide, and gather him in for a mother’s hug.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 765)

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