The counselor gently asks her, "Do you think you have a good relationship with your parents?"
The young girl sheepishly looks at her mom and quietly answers, "No, not really."
And in one fell swoop, the pieces of this mom's heart come tumbling down...as do her tears.
The Unexpected Journey
When one dreams about being a parent, you know there will be challenges along the way. One would be naive if you thought parenthood would be a walk in the park. You throw out various scenarios to prep yourself, and in your mind you think, "I got this. WE got this." I mean, our parents survived, so we should be able to, correct? I always thought that if I could be just HALF the mom that my mom was to me, I'd be doing OK.
But then the unexpected happens. This young girl, my own daughter, who has always loved school comes home on the first day this fall in tears. Over the next few weeks and months those tears turn into emotional and physical outbursts of varying degree. She holds it in everywhere BUT at home. The thought of someone seeing her "exposed" and "real" terrifies her. The result is that home is her safe place to let her explosion of feelings emerge. The explosions leave remnants everywhere, whether emotional or physical in nature. Some days are good, but some days there are multiple episodes. Then the episodes end by her "crashing." In tears this young girl expresses her fear of not knowing where this behavior was coming from or why it was happening. Seeing my daughter at her weakest moments of despair has brought me to tears on multiple occasions.
We've often used the term "strong-willed" to describe her, and I don't think that has changed. In the beginning of this escalated behavior we reacted to this behavior with consequences and reactions that matched the behavior. Then the realization that this is more than a strong-willed child acting out becomes very apparent. A professional diagnosis is given and this mom (and dad) starts to see things in a new and very unexpected way. Our daughter is struggling internally with anxiety, anger, and fear. A mom watching her daughter try to cope with some mental health issues was not in the game plan for parenting.
So, now each day brings the wonder of how it will unfold. Will there be a meltdown over a ponytail that doesn't look "just right?" Will our daughter writhe on the floor in anguish over which outfit to pick? Will there be shouts of frustration over a letter or number not being made perfectly? What if out of 10 assignments she gets only one question wrong, will that result in a night of fretting? Will every little look from her sister send her into a fit? What if our plans have to change....what reaction will there be? What if her candy cane breaks again? What if she gets redirected at school? What if a classmate says something she takes out of context? What if....what if....I feel like I'm walking on eggshells in my home. I have quickly realized that what is a molehill to me is in reality her MOUNTAIN. It is so...very....tiring.
Bit by bit this mom's heart and inner strength starts to get chipped away. I try to hold strong. A mother's love continues through it all, even when my patience is holding on by the thinnest thread...when my mind can think of nothing else but how to help. It has become all-consuming.
The decision to get some help was made. So here we sat in a cozy office, feeling safe. I slowly felt myself coming unhinged listening to our daughter's thoughts. When the simple question mentioned above resulted in that answer, in one fell swoop this mom's heart most definitely caved in. Crushed. Smashed to smithereens.
At first I thought I was overreacting. Did she really know what she had been asked? Was she being serious with her answer? Moms know their children, their mannerisms, facial expressions, voice inflections, etc. and this was a time that I knew she was sincere. There have been many hurtful things said during these episodes, but this by far took the cake because it hit at the very core of parenting.
Suddenly flashbacks came rushing in, considering how reactions and things perceived all this time quite possibly looked to this young girl. When our impatience and frustration of not knowing what was happening could not be hidden in our voices. Did she think she wasn't loved? A parent's worst fear. I have feared this since the beginning, but now it has exploded ten-fold. These days I think about very little besides this.
There is help. I'm so very grateful we have found someone I trust wholeheartedly to walk us through this unexpected journey. I know it won't be easy, but we are looking forward to finding some trigger points and how we can help her cope.
Our faith....our hope...our comfort is in Him. What a comfort that my life and the life of my daughter was known since the beginning of time. That God knew that the best mom for this young girl would be the very one that stands by her now, loving her unconditionally. Loving her through the tantrums and fears, the writhing and foot stomping. Loving her through the anxious and fearful moments. Loving her and sharing with her that she has been forgiven.
What a comfort for this young girl that even though she worries about making sure things are "just right" with her world right now, that there is one who has made everything right. That while she may struggle for months, maybe years, and possibly a lifetime with some semblance of anxiety, her comfort and assurance comes from our Lord, the promise of salvation and the knowledge that our eternal home will have no fear.
So this mom starts on an unexpected journey. We will build up those pieces that have crumbled down. Step by step. Piece by piece. Hug by hug.
Simply put....my daughter, you are loved.