Monday, November 01, 2004

I need more rope

It’s been a ruff couple of days for me. My mood is affected greatly by several things. One of the biggest is my children. It used to be my wife. I was generally happy unless she was unhappy. Which was most of the time. Now that she is gone I’m happy most of the time. But I’m finding my mood is now a prisoner to my son’s behavior. I am just so worried about him. My youngest is generally really easy. Of course he has the typical 5-year-old mood swings and whining. But overall he doesn’t seem to be effected by life the same way my older son is. I think that’s because Justin has had more time with his mom over the course of his life. His concept of normalcy involves her presence. Whereas with Shane; his mom was already inconsistent figure from the age of 3. So the absence and rejection from mom has had a bigger impact on Justin. Which makes his acting out so hard for me to deal with. He is the sweetest little kid you could know. His mom and I worked very hard to teach him good manners and graciousness. He almost always says please and thank-you. He offers to help people when they need it. He usually puts others first, and can articulate how God likes it when we do so. His generally good behavior makes is all the more troubling when he acts out the way he does. It seems very passive-aggressive. He will just destroy things apparently on a whim. It’s always when I’m not around. (Well, I suppose that could just be because I stop him when I see him do it.) But I know to expect to have at least one thing of mine ruined whenever I come back from a night out. Black shoe polish all over my white shoes. The entire 14-day supply of tooth whitening paste opened and spread all over the counter and toothbrushes. (Maybe God is punishing me for being vain?) A couple hundred breath strips scattered all around the house. Or the latest: a big pile of cornstarch sludge filling the sink, spattered throughout the kitchen, and crusted on the dishes. He asked me if he could use the cornstarch to make slime last night. I said definitely not. (You can guess what happens with slime, silly putty, or any other sticky substance they get a hold of.) I came back from a movie to see that wonderful surprise. I’m actually relieved when it’s just a mess that can be cleaned up instead of something broken or destroyed. Like the back door of my Jeep. While I was playing football this morning, he somehow managed to bend the metal rod on the closing mechanism for the back window. Now I can hardly get it shut.

While the loss of stuff is annoying, it’s my concern for Justin that is really causing me pain. I’m so hesitant to punish him because I know how hard his life is without a mom and his feelings of rejection and confusion. But he has to be punished. I actually took away his trick-or-treat privilege this year. That’s right; no candy on Halloween. But what else can I do when he chased Shane around with a lighter and burned him this morning? I can feel the end of my rope, and it’s closer than I thought. I’m very afraid, because I’m all my kids have right now. If I screw up now, it’s they who are going to be screwed up as a result. And if Justin doesn’t stop this pattern of behavior, it’s just going to get worse and worse as he gets older and thinks of more and more devious ways of being destructive behind my back. I love him so much, and I can’t bare the thought of that.

All this anxiety I’m feeling is leading me into depression. I’ve got a really good way to fight it off though. I realize that my depression is an act of self-focus. And when I’m focused on my problems, (in a non-constructive way) I am not being thankful for everything God has blessed me with. Have you ever given someone a gift and they did not respond at all? No lighting up the face, or gratitude. (I know I did that to my mom a couple of Christmases.) That’s gotta be how God feels when I’m depressed. I live in the wealthiest nation on earth. My kids get free schooling and a team of professionals helping them. They are both healthy, happy and usually well-adjusted. These are just a very tiny fraction of the gifts God has given me. My pouting about how hard things are for me is pretty ridiculous when I consider that.

And yet… my mind has limits. I’m afraid that I’m closing in on some of them. But I trust that if I keep adjusting my attitude as much as I can, God will fill in the rest.

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