The parenting puzzle

I remember, about 2-3 weeks after we started telling people we were expecting, thinking that we had to be nuts.  I don’t recall exactly what was going on in the news (and I’m a little too lazy to punch it into wikipedia at the moment) but 1995 wasn’t exactly a stellar time in world history.  I just remember that there was one evening we were watching Dan Rather or someone talking about the wars, political maneuvers and whatever else was happening, and looking at my dear husband to ask, “Are you sure we want to do this?”

I’m pretty sure he chalked it up to hormones.  But I think he knew that I was feeling overwhelmed by the thought of bringing another human into this wacky, broken and often scary world.  At the time, I wasn’t thinking beyond those first few months- when an infant is utterly dependent on their family and others to be care-takers.  I couldn’t imagine how something so fragile and needy could be utterly dependent on ME to make it all the way out of diapers and into solid foods.

Fast-forward to teen years, and I’m still not sure how wise it was for God and the universe to put a child in my care.  I am a mess.  I am overwhelmed by the increasing evidence of humanity’s proclivity for violence and stupidity. I am even more overwhelmed by the complexity of my child’s needs at this point.  In addition to more food than I remember putting away at 15 and the array of digital devices that are ubiquitous today, our particular child is sort of like a puzzle in a ziplock bag… and no picture to guide us to completion.

There is the piece that makes the FPK super-smart; his IQ measured at very gifted levels in kindergarten.  Another piece is the learning disability that makes it difficult to organize those very gifted thoughts in ways that teachers are able to test, especially in math.  Then there’s that amazing artist and writer that is coming closer to the surface as he continues to draw and write, both helping and causing frustration at not being able to express all that is in that beautiful brain and heart.

Other pieces that are revealing themselves include depression, mania and other mental health challenges.  Right now, we’re living with a diagnosis of bipolar, and we’re seeing some improvement in finding balance. But there is more to it than that- the social anxiety, the difficulty focusing and the interesting and scary ways that stress manifests itself.  I will never forget the first time the FPK let slip about the voices in his head.  Nor the time a counselor told us that if someone really wants to end their own life badly enough, they will find a way.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would hear those words spoken in relation to someone I knew, much less someone I brought into the world…  and joked about having the power to take out of it.  It just wasn’t funny to think that he might take that power back.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, whether it’s the 15-year-old talking or the disorder.  I feel like they are separate, and yet not.  Lord knows that teens can be master manipulators, especially the smart ones.  And when you can blame things on a learning disability or mood disorder, you have that much more ammunition.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, whether I’m angry at the child, the disease or the meds.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, if I’m in my right mind.  I want to scream and throw things.   I want to be the immature one who just blows things off and plays games or texts friends all night.  I want to be the one who doesn’t worry about taking meds because someone who is responsible will remind me.

It’s hard to know, sometimes, whether I’m enabling or empowering.  Or both.

It’s hard to know how to put together a puzzle when you don’t know what it’s meant to look like.  And even harder when someone messes with the pieces, changing their shapes and colors after you’ve started.

But it’s my job.  Our job together, me and the hubby, to keep picking them up, laying them out and looking for clues in the colors and edges.  And to hope against hope that once we find the border pieces the insides will be easier to fill in.


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