Wherein Parenting Takes An Unorthodox Turn

It was a Wednesday and I stopped and dropped in the middle of putting clean sheets on my bed because the weight of my mundane world crashed in a heap upon my shoulders and the tonnage of it propelled a forward bend, palms pressed open against the mattress, back arched like a bow and the heaviness of my head hanging careless between my shoulder blades. I told my Father that I was certain that He had made a mistake and that surely having three boys AND homeschooling them . . . plus this, that and the other thing was too much weight for any one person to stand up under and more specifically: TOO much for an introvert who craves solitude and stillness and quiet more then all the known things on God’s green earth.

Then I remembered that God only gives us what we could NEVER handle.

On.

Our.

Own.

With the brackish water breaking from my eyelids and spilling on the bed I’m bent over, I says to my God: “I ain’t got what it takes to be a mom and my back feels all busted-up here and while we’re on the subject, I need a wee bit more wisdom than width of Tinkerbell’s left arse cheek.”

To be more specific with you, we’ve been aching and desperate to comprehend what to do with our oldest son who is transitioning from boyhood into young-manhood and seems to all of a sudden have pre-adolescent hormones raging through his developing body. Somebody told me one time long, long, ago that this would happen some day—the hormones and whatnot—and I’m going to tell you right now that there are some abstracts I wish would just stay the freakin’ heck away from reality. Because these boy hormones?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, SAVE ME!!!!!!!!!

I digress.

Our boy, Gabe, has been monumentally struggling with disproportionate anger. And this anger can rise up inside him from just one big snot-sniffle coming from the nostril of a brother sitting next to him on the couch. And no amount of reasoning and deep breathing is enough sometimes to pull him out of his sudden hysteric space. Later, when the cool down finally comes, he makes his way so repentant-like to all the family members he violated and begs for forgiveness, with tears and sorrow and all the rest of it. He prays everyday that God would help him not to react to his sometimes frequently pesky little brothers or to any other thing that might get an immediate rise out of him.

Gabriel and I were having a post-fraternal-war conversation on the couch the other day and with cry-streaks all over his cheeks he says to me: “Mama, I’d rather be able to change then have a million dollars. I don’t understand why God isn’t helping me”. Let me go ahead and confess to you that my heart split to slivers while watching my son hunger for a transformation that felt so far-reaching for him. Especially since he’s been praying for [what feels to him like] a very long time. And mama don’t have the answer to his big-boy question.

That’s the gist of our repetitive struggles. And by “repetitive”, I mean: more then once every day. And I am so tired of hearing myself talk and all the teachable moments that I just CAN’T pass up. He’s tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. At the same time, you need to know that Gabe has such a gigantic heart of goodness and strength inside his chest and we are constantly affirming who he is and building his character up and reminding him of who he is in Christ Jesus and anyone who isn’t his mama would still marvel at the way this God-son spreads seeds of love all over the land around him.

In the midst of all this, Austin and I have—at times—messed up massively in the ways we responded to Gabe’s challenges, getting angry and shout-like just as the good scriptures tell us not to and we have sorrowfully sought his forgiveness and somehow by a Grace higher then ours that process has knit our hearts even tighter together with our boy Gabe.

So, that day when my mattress became my confessional, I had reached the most stretched-out shred of myself – for things mentioned and unmentioned. But, what I was most despairing for was a way to help my son through his breaking s and transitions.

The next day Gabriel’s anger came back, it couldn’t stay away . . . with wild eyes and clenched fists he tornados around his brother Jude for barely any reason at all. I’m in the kitchen elbow deep in sugar cookie dough when the tyrant-tune reaches my ears and the first thing I do this time is all the deep-breath-taking I can possibly suck in, all the way to my belly and back up again, while whispering my “Oh, God . . . help.” And I call for the angry son to “come here please” and I quietly ask him to “go somewhere alone just until I can wash my hands and come talk to him”. The good Lord knows I didn’t need time to wash my hands. I needed time to wash my heart so I could enter into a space with my son and see far beyond the surface issue being repeatedly expressed.

That’s exactly when I had this helpful idea fall into my thinking space and I rushed to meet Gabe in the guest room where he was being quiet and took his hand in mine and guided his body gently to lay down on the rug, positioned his limbs in the most relaxed pose, placed a palm on his forehead and a palm on his stomach and felt the Spirit literally whoosh in on the wings of my urgent pleas. What follows is the record I wrote in my journal the second I was done ministering to my boy, because I didn’t want to forget even an atom of it.

Me: “Ok, Bub. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths all the way down to your belly. Breathe . . . Relax your face. . . Loosen your limbs . . . Breathe.”

(One minute pause while Gabe stills down.)

Me: “While keeping your eyes closed, I want you to tell me where your anger is located in your body. Is it in your mind? Or your heart? Or your stomach? Is it in your left thigh?” (Seriously. You NEVER know.)

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “The anger is in my stomach.”

At this point I move both my fire-hands to rest softly on his bare belly.

Me: “Ok. The anger is in your stomach, what does it feel like?”

Gabe: “My stomach feels tight and really tense. It hurts all over.”

Me: “Ok. We know the anger is in your stomach and is making your stomach tense and painful. Now, I want you to imagine the anger in your stomach and tell me what it looks like.”

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “It looks like a dark, red cloud.”

Me: “Imagine for me this dark, red cloud sitting in your belly and taking up all this space where it doesn’t belong. (Pause) Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Now imagine the dark, red cloud being sucked out of your belly until it’s all the way gone.”

Almost immediately, Gabriel’s eyes POP open and bug out of his head while he exclaims: “HOW did you do that?!?! I CAN’T believe it!!! My stomach hurt SO bad and now it’s all GONE!!! It’s a MIRACLE!!!”

I’m smiling over his wonder and joy, but tell him: “Hang on a second, we’re not done yet . . . close your eyes and imagine the space in your belly where all that anger was . . . now that it’s gone, you have all this empty space inside you and I want you to envision that empty space. Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Alright, now that you have this empty space, what do you want to fill it back up with?”

Gabe: “God’s love. I want to fill it with God’s love.”

Me: “Good . . .that’s beautiful, Gabe. What does God’s love look like to you?”

Gabe: “God’s love looks like Jesus’ face.”

Me: “Ok. Imagine Jesus’ face coming to you and filling all the empty parts inside your stomach.”

And he did, he took Jesus’ face right inside him and with so much gladness and appreciation coming out his eyes, my boy throws his adolescent arms around my neck and fervently whispers against my neck: “Thank you so much, mama. I feel FREE!” And mama says: “Oh, honey. Jesus set you free, He just used my hands and my heart.”

I learned an invaluable lesson that day: in many situations that seem like a punishment would be in order for negative behavior being chosen and displayed, maybe the offender isn’t always begging for . . .

Time-outs.

Or privileges revoked.

Or firm words.

Or extra chores mandated.

Maybe sometimes he only needs to be touched where he is hurting most. Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children. The healing process can take more time then we are willing to sacrifice when life is full and busy, but for the 20 minutes I spent on the floor with Gabe I felt like I was in an alternate universe with my son and I couldn’t even feel the clock ticking.

(Note: I don’t think Gabe received some magic cure-all. BUT. It has been two weeks since this interaction with the Spirit on the extra-bedroom floor and we have not had ONE outrage. NOT. ONE. Sure, he still gets mad here and there – it’s just not even close to the same anymore.)

 

:: Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose ::

 

60 Comments Wherein Parenting Takes An Unorthodox Turn

  1. tara pohlkotte

    “Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children.” – oh darlin’. yes. right here. xo. beautiful storycatching here as always.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      I LOVE getting your encouraging words, Tara . . . Coming from you, they mean especially much. Thank you, Darlin’.

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
  2. Stephanie

    Ah. Yes! I’m glad to find other mamas out there consider the possibility that some behaviors are spiritually-based. Sometimes my son’s behavior defies conventional wisdom and truly need the Spirit’s help identifying and overcoming the problem. I think this kind of education is more valuable than any textbook can teach us. Your son, and my son will be equipped to manage life’s difficulties. Which is worth it’s weight in gold.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Stephanie, thank you so much! I am encouraged to hear of mama’s being Spirit-led in their parenting. Keep on keeping on, lady!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  3. Bethany

    oh, my gosh… All I need in this world is quiet… and I homeschool three boys, the oldest an 11 1/2 y.o. ball of untamed fury. I am at a total loss as to how to cool it!

    This was perfect for me today. I know he needs much more than my reactive shouting back. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Yes! I hear you, Bethany! My oldest boy is just over 11, so I am certain our days have MUCH in common!

      Blessings and LOVE to you, mama, as you wrestle with the rest of us!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      I think that’s going to be my new motto: “Damn the busyness, touch the child!” SO great! Thanks, Mel-belle. :)

      Love,
      Lynn

      Reply
  4. erica c.

    Wow…this just leaves me speechless. I love what you wrote, “Maybe sometimes he only needs to be touched where he is hurting most. Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children.” Just so beautiful and a really great reminder/wake-p call. It’s so easy to respond to our kids in selfish reaction to how they affect us or interfere with our plans, etc. But to connect with them & reach into their hearts, show them to look to Christ, and that hey, we need Him too & we’re in it together….that’s truly something special. I pray for that wisdom.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Is this Erica Camacho?! Or another Erica C.? :)

      Either way, I am blessed that this story resonated with your heart, friend. I’ll pray for your mama-wisdom today when I pray for my own. :)

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
      1. erica c.

        Hehe yes Erica Camacho! :) Also loved what you wrote saying the God gives us what we could never handle on our own. Believe me, I’ve had lots of face-plant-on-the-bed-I-can’t-handle-this moments! Hahaaa! Even reading about your precious son, can’t we all just see ourselves in him, as we’re changing and growing and stretching and being made new in Christ. Regardless of age or maturity level we all go through it, and as parents, wow…always learning! What a beautiful representation Gabe is of that and amazingly so with his child-like humility and joy.

        Reply
        1. thelifeartist

          YES! Amazingly enough, I need to use the same tools I give to him on MYSELF! :)

          Thank you for being here, Erica! You make me smile.

          Love,
          Erika

          Reply
  5. HopeUnbroken

    ah, this hits me on so many levels. so. dang. many.
    yep, you’re getting an e-mail :-)
    i have so many more questions than comments. right there with you. praying for you. for me. for your boys. and for my one.
    i love you.
    always.
    steph

    Reply
  6. Aubrey

    The anger you describe was my house just-last-night, so this word of encouragement is timely. Praise The Lord for his divine intercession to my heart today. I was feeling alone and even though words of forgiveness were shared between all those involved I still woke up with my heart a bit scattered this morning.
    My son said, “I just need a way to get the anger out,” as we talked last night. And I reminded him of how to squeeze his muscles from his toes to head and to breath it all out. My son who is only 10 is questioning faith right now, in part because of a friend who opened his thoughts to such, but also because his mind is quite inclined to the world of science and the universe, and he uses vocabulary far beyond my education to such things. Anyway, I admire you, and your ability to hit the pause button and truly reflect on the state of your son’s heart. Praise that he can look to Jesus as a source of comfort and support. I pray that my son will get there too.
    To be honest when the events happened on Friday, which I know is practically your backyard, my immediate cry to The Lord was to the parents who lost their child, but had shared harsh words before they left for school that morning. That’s happened with me, and I drop them off (even after we smoothed everything over) with a huge sense of guilt, and I say, tomorrow Lord, tomorrow will be different. I prayed for those who didn’t get tomorrow to do it differently.
    Anyway, thank you, for your gift of words, and talking about those parts of parenting that are hard, and showing me (writing to me) about how God can use my hands and heart to help my son, even if he does’t know how that fits in with him right now.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Aubrey, I had the exact same thought – about the parents who might carry eternal guilt for having harsh words with their children, only to lose them before getting a chance at forgiveness. I pray mercy down on their heads right alongside you.

      Bless you, mama, as you steward the son God gave you. I know that you are perfectly equipped to walk alongside that boy through all his wondering and wanderings. My heartfelt prayers are with you.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  7. Prudence

    I don’t think this is unorthodox at all. I think it’s you parenting the way the Spirit led you, and I love it. As a closing in on 40 year old dealing with hormones that are at times worse than when I was a teenager I understand that unadulterated rage. And I understand his heart not to react that way.

    I may have to steal your technique for use on myself. :)

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      YES! Trust me, Prudychick, I have started this very same method to bring healing to my own body, mind, spirit and emotions. :)

      Thank you for the encouragement, you sweet thing you!

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Beautiful Brittany –

      Thank you and bless you AND know that my prayers are with you in all your new adventures!

      Love
      Erika

      Reply
  8. Bethany

    I always know when I open your blog to a new post that at some point, my skin will start to tingle and then stand straight up with goosebumps and that by the end, I will be shivering. I just see the living God in your stories, Erika-friend, and this one hits so close to home. I am scared stiff of the day when my older daughter, the one so thoroughly like me, will hit hormone central. We already have so much trouble navigating the rough patches of emotion and behavior, and I already know for a fact that I won’t be able to do it. Not alone. And that’s the gift your words have given me today–the awe-filling reminder that I’m not alone in mothering my young ones.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Why is it such a struggle to remember that we have access at all times to the greatest Mother/Father and there is help whenever we pause long enough to listen? I know better, but seem to only be able to remind myself AFTER I have already reached my limit. But, this time? I feel myself changing – my mothering-habits and whatnot – because I’ve been different for the last two weeks as well.

      Love you, my pseudo-Italian Darlin’.

      Reply
  9. Rachael Lanning

    Erika,
    I am a discussion group leader for a table of young mothers at my church in Plano, Texas, and found this beautiful story such an encouragement that I sent a link to it to my table. Thank you for being a channel through whom the Lord blesses and ministers to my heart, and countless others. It will be a special privilege to meet you someday, even if it is in eternity with our Lord. :)
    I pray you and your family have a truly joy-filled Christmas, dear sister!
    Rachael

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Rachel, you have immeasurably blessed my heart just now and your comment makes me feel like all the pain we went through to come to the fruition of this story was wildly worth it.

      I will see you some day and be so glad for it. Merry Christmas to you, sister-friend. Merry Christmas.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  10. kelli

    oh, i could cry for the beauty of this.
    for the way you went to the problem without wasting time on the symptoms. because i so often see the damage being done by the symptoms and go into hyper-drive to stop the chaos, anger, and pain — forgetting that there is a *reason* for what is coming out all over the place.
    thank you for sharing this. ALL of this, graphic details and every little bit. hits me hard today.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Kelli, thank you so much for affirming the fruit of this story. And for spending time with my heart today . . . It sure does mean the world.

      Let’s keep looking for the “reasons”, ok?

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  11. Teresa

    This was so powerful! The amazing miracles that god provides are so deep. Not only is he healing the hurt but he teaches while He does it. I have a friend that struggles at why God isn’t healing her even though she fully believes that He can. I said that Jesus healed on Earth to prove he was the messiah and to bring glory to God. If having her suffer as awful as it is would bring more glory to God then that is what we should long for. But if healing is what he desires then we should pray to be healed to reach as many for Christ as we can. It’s hard to live for him completely, through the suffering and everything.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      A resounding YES to that last sentence, Teresa. Oh my, YES . . . That is the hardest part and I am still aiming to do just that with all my heart.

      Thank you for being here!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  12. Kamille Scellick

    I love you Erika & the contagiousness of your being fills me up. It’s the Jesus in you. I have been having a rather rough go with my oldest lately & this hits home deeply. Pray for me, for her, for us will you? Pray the Spirit would restore those times I’ve shouted & chosen harsh criticism over gentle peace-filled love.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      I have an almighty wish that we were neighbors so we could send our kids back and forth to each others houses and be “in it” together. Wouldn’t that be grand? And would you feel me squeezing you right now, across geography and time zones?

      Love you,
      Me

      Reply
  13. stargardener

    Such wisdom and grace, Erika. We know as we go, Braveheart. Continue to do what is in your momma’s heart, ’cause it is Spirit leading you through. My eldest, fierce-son is now a fine man, husband and daddy. He leads soldiers and aids them in dealing with their own fierceness.

    Reply
  14. rachel

    As a homeschool mom who has two girls that are teenagers (yikes! Lord help us!). This post really touched me. I really struggle in this area, especially since I don’t understand my musical, introverted, creative child who doesn’t talk. And I do understand my talkative, the world is black and white, passionate child (she scares me because I do understand what is going through her head!). You reminded me that the battle is the Lords and I need to take it to him. That I need to pray more with my kids when we venture toward the cliff and point my finger less, if at all. Thank you my friend. God speaks through you.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Rachel, I pray the Spirit blesses your heart with understanding and sight beyond the physical world . . . in Jesus’ name. Your longing to minister to your daughters will be blessed.

      Thank you for being with me this morning and for speaking encouragement to my soul.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  15. Holly

    My soul space is trilling from this, dear friend. Everything in me just screams “Yes!” to the way you responded in spirit and in truth. You speak out loud what I often long to do but only whisper inside. This? It feels like a holy call on my heart to open myself as a vessel of healing.
    I want to lay my hands on the world and just groan.

    Reply
  16. Nicole C.

    Ericka,
    I read your lyrical writings and as they float across my screen and into my heart, every single time… I gather an image of you being what a modern day Emily Dickinson would have been as a mother… finding constant lightening bolt moments to harness pure inspiration and tie them up with sweetness and pass them along to your boys and they will surely find within their memory for all of time, the bundles of spirit and guidance you gave them in the form of your ability to create a moment. Deepest thanks again for sharing with us. I knew you had a Christmas gift waiting for me here!!!! My intuition didn’t fail me!

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      I am profoundly complemented this morning, Nicole . . . and so blessed by the imagery you spoke over me. Thank you very much, friend.Thank you!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  17. Sarah Berestecky

    Ah! NEVER commented on a blog before. But this has left me raw. Have 3 babies (3, almost 2, and 3 months) I am desperate for spirit-led parenting in this season because I am desperate for His spirit. Thank you for this Jesus infused picture of parenting. For my children and for me. Feel a bit foolish (that’s the best humbling place to be) but I feel like your son. Postpartum depression has filled my spaces lately and I just need some spirit led parenting done on me. He really does heal and restore those mix of hormones right? Thank you for the reminder that He does. All the way down south in Texas I am once again grateful for His big and wide Bride that is connected by His blood.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      I am smiling so big to be your first blog comment EVER! :)

      And, mama? Don’t feel foolish because I often feel like my son and the tool the Spirit gave me to use on him, I have started to use on myself. We all need healing, everyday and more, eh?

      Bless you, dear one. My prayers are WITH you and I am FOR you.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  18. Diana Trautwein

    Playing catch-up tonight, sweet E-lady, and found this amazing story. POWERFUL – the gifts of healing touch and divine insights with this growing big-boy of yours. Such changes happen in our guys at about this age – you are wise (and blessed) to use touch and prayer as you do. I don’t think my son would have allowed me to do what you did and I floundered a lot in trying to make contact with him as a pre-teen and adolescent. I wish I had been more ‘out there’ in my faith/actions. But then. . . God makes us different from one another, you know? And all of us are on the learning curve, some of us climbing more steeply than others. Love you…

    Reply
  19. Jill Carter

    This is beautiful and what we need to do more as mommies and daddies. I had a daily tantrum thrower and we needed the Spirit every day to make it through. Thanks for writing about such a vulnerable thing.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      None of us are ever alone, eh? Thank you, Jill, for being here. :)

      Love,
      Erika

      P.S. I didn’t know until today that you had a blog! I’m a little slow like that . . . :P

      Reply
  20. G

    We adopted our son out of foster care when he had just turned 6. He has so much trauma, grief, loss, fear and just pain and we pray that God will take the feelings that are too big for him and carry them for him. This is beautiful and I am going to use this too :) Thank you

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      G? You are my hero. HERO, I tell you!!! I feel enriched just knowing there are people like you in the world.

      Thank you for being here with our story.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
      1. G

        Erika, I am no hero! My son is an incredible gift to me and I am trusted with the job of helping him heal and truly live all the days of his life. I rarely feel like I am doing a good job at that :/

        G

        Reply
  21. jen

    Oh, a Two-fold THANK you
    1) This: Then I remembered that God only gives us what we could NEVER handle.
    On.
    Our.
    Own.
    - The Lord has been calling this homeschooling mama to write for ages and I had every excuse why I was too busy or disorganized…. and your post is my confirmation of the sweet sounds He whispered this morning…”Sweetheart, I don’t want YOU to have it all together and perfect. before you begin, I want you to BEGIN in your imperfection so I can show my perfection. ” Such an unworldly gentleman.
    2) I will COMPLETELY try this approach, and have been PRAYING how to help our five year old out of his anger bits. Hah- my old new- age self would have figured that one out in minutes… what a beautiful illustration of LOVE healing. THANK YOU!!!
    My site is still under construction… but it’s coming :) Old one is at http://www.JenReyneri.com

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Jen, I am so grateful that this story was used as confirmation for something the Spirit is speaking in your life. :) Thank you for letting me know . . . I am blessed and encouraged. Much love and many blessings as you walk faithfully into your writing!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  22. Lorie

    Your story was like hearing an echo of my own experience with my oldest son. His heart was shaped a lot like Gabe’s which, as you expressed so beautifully, made it all the more painful for all of us. Many times I would come to my Father and say, “What are you waiting for? Your child is begging to be rescued.” The one difference between our stories is that the Spirit didn’t reveal how he planned to free our son until he was 19. Most likely because I wouldn’t have been open to it (context:I was raised Southern Baptist). My son’s healing didn’t come on the rug of a guest room floor, but over the phone while I was in my car and he on a walk, once again at war with his emotions. Although nobody knew about that phone call (outside of my husband who was driving the car, my son and myself) everyone has attested to the sudden change they saw in him after that day. He’s 20 now and still free. Glory to God!

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Lorie, I’m so grateful that tis story touched you and I am feeling all kinds of tender right now in response to your own story. Your son is free and my heart is rejoicing with you on a Wednesday morning. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply

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