Summertime is not all fun and games around our house it’s also appointment time. Since both boys get frustrated missing school even for an excused absence we try to take care of all the necessary medical appointments during the summer. This is a nice problem to have so I try not to complain even when it gets a little nerve wracking with Chase. The joke I make is that you could hit Luke over the head with a bat, ask him if it hurts and he’d say no I’m fine. With Chase it’s entirely different. If you tapped him with a plastic bat he’d wince, rub his head, and cry, “That hurt.”
It’s a wiring thing and fortunately folks in the medical community usually understand this. In some cases however, I think hazard pay is merited and this is exactly what I told the boy’s orthodontist when I ran into him this weekend. After years of preparing for it, Chase is finally getting his braces and I feel for the techs who will work with him.
He doesn’t intend to be trouble but when you combine his hyper-sensitivity with his hyper-vigilant personality you’ve got a double-hitter, and the kid can swing from mild-mannered to hysterical in a minute. Lots of folks don’t believe this about Chase because he’s typically very sweet and personable but all it takes is saying the word “shot” to start his ranting. A shot for Chase is a fate worse than death and frankly sometimes the way he behaves makes me want to shoot myself.
The reaction with Chase isn’t completely foreign to medical folks. Lots of kids can’t handle various medical procedures. What people aren’t prepared for though is the recitation of his personal injury log while they are trying to coach him through something. This log dates back to age four when he had to have surgery and they, “lied and said I wouldn’t feel a thing but I did – I felt everything and it was excruciating!”
From that data point on every single thing over the last eleven years that has ever caused Chase any physical or emotional distress is served up in a heaping dose. Some of the things are understandably upsetting. Where everyone gets lost though is when Chase delves into the non-medical stuff. For example, once I promised him the leftovers from dinner would be in his lunch box the next day and packed something else which he “couldn’t” eat and meant he “almost starved to death”. Then there was the time his dad took him to the driving range when he didn’t want to go which was a major violation of his personal rights. Not to mention nobody in his family is as passionate as he is about correcting all the mistakes Steven Spielberg made in the Jurassic Park movies.
So the list goes, leaving everyone to believe that Chase has had a bitter childhood and subjecting him to whatever medical procedure he needs is simply more than he can bear. I’ve prayed and prayed for this aspect of Chase’s personality to change but so far that’s not been the case. That being said I’ve decided this must be meant to teach me a lesson. As is typically the case it’s not about me changing my kids, it’s about how they change me.
Chase is not any different than a lot of people he’s just willing to be up front about it. He’s sensitive and some stuff has happened in his lifetime that’s been very upsetting to him. His thoughts, feelings, and reactions aren’t wrong they are just different than mine. I can rant and rave about plenty of things if you hit a trigger point, however, the difference between me and Chase is that I censor this. I’ve learned when to keep it to myself and when it’s okay to vent. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s not safe to express your thoughts and feelings because that will just get you a heaping dose of shame which is very debilitating.
This is what I don’t want for Chase. While I want him to learn there’s a time and place for expressing himself I don’t want him to be convinced it’s wrong to have the feelings he does. Feelings are never wrong or right and expressing them is healthy if you’re not told you shouldn’t have them. That’s a value judgment that has no place in the world of thoughts and feelings yet we make those rulings all the time when we tell someone that something doesn’t hurt, shouldn’t hurt, or if it does you need to just get over it. Amongst Christians especially, you’ll hear all sorts of thoughts about not having the feelings you do. Things like, “If you feel that way you haven’t forgiven the person” or “it’s wrong to worry” and don’t forget, “it’s a sin to be angry.”
If you apply this to Chase and the lunchbox incident it’s not very fair. School can get a little crazy for him and lunch is something he looks forward to. When you open up your box and find something you don’t like it would be upsetting. Chase isn’t necessarily harboring anger and resentment toward me with his ranting he’s telling everyone listening that what he’s currently experiencing is like what he felt then. The same holds true with the golf incident and as for the Jurassic Park errors it’s not a stretch to think someone doesn’t care for you if they don’t care about the things you’re passionate about. I’ve felt that way more than once in a home outnumbered by boys.
Under duress we can all feel very alone in our suffering and this is what Chase is trying to say when he’s stressed to the max. He isn’t stuck in the past he’s actually desperately trying to move forward. Shaming him for expressing himself honestly won’t help him do that. It doesn’t help anybody. We move forward in life by understanding our feelings not having them dismissed. If the message you get back when you express yourself is that you “shouldn’t” feel the way you do you only grow more confused and wind up lacking the confidence to move forward. Your life experience doesn’t become a teacher then it becomes a stumbling block.
Inadvertently, I’m guilty as charged with Chase because when he gets going I want to nip it in the bud and keep him moving forward. My intention isn’t to make him feel badly I’m just trying to help him survive something quickly. I think this is the same thing many of us do with our friends and family. When they’re melting down we want to see them smiling sooner rather than later so we go for the quick-fix and offer what we think is a word of encouragement not considering it might be the complete opposite.
I don’t want to do that anymore with him and so my approach with the braces is going to be different. I know some aspects of the process will be painful so my strategy is to ask him how badly he think it’s going to be compared to his other experiences and what I can do to help him get through it. It’s going to be a long conversation but I’m asking him to tell me more rather than less with the hope that by respecting and validating his feelings he feels more confident. Confidence builds courage and that’s what he needs not my disapproval.
I don’t know if it will work but at least I’ll know I’ve tried. To me this feels like the more Godly compassionate approach. I think the extra effort is worth it because what I want for Chase is what I want for everyone I love and that’s an honest reason to smile. Maybe, when a person feels heard and understood that’s all it takes to help set everything straight? I don’t know, but I’m going to brace myself for an ear full and see.