Last year, Big L’s favorite song was Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse. It’s a song about God, but I think for us, it also reminded us of what it means to be a parent to a hurting child. “In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures You won’t walk out…”
That image has stuck with me and that song always makes me think of Big L. Any lighthouse makes me think of Big L. My “word picture” for N is slightly different. Although it sometimes feels like N is the violent sea trying to batter me, I know she’s really swimming IN a violent sea. A violent sea of emotions, a violent sea of being pulled and pushed different ways by different people, a violent sea of uncertainty. All I can offer her is a place to rest. Whenever she’s misplacing her anger on me, I try to remind myself, be her rock.
She’s scared and angry, and these feelings can come out in unpleasant ways. I want to react myself. I sometimes feel like another swimmer in this violent sea, and we might cling to or fight each other and pull each other under.
But, I can’t. She doesn’t need another swimmer who can only keep her up so long. She needs a rock to cling to.
And this is what I’m learning, day by day. Briefly acknowledge her feelings, then dig my heels in deep and let that sea crash against me. Be unmovable despite all of the misplaced hurt thrown about. Be firm and resolute with rules and boundaries. Be solid, no matter how much I might feel like cracking.
I am constantly being reminded that love looks different for different people. For Reed, love looks like having someone who believes in him– age-appropriate freedom and encouraging and acknowledging his successes. For Lena, love looks like cuddling and loving words to lift her up. For Gus, love looks like an engaged playmate and someone to rub his feet when he’s tired. For N, love looks like all of that, plus firm boundaries and someone who can sit beside her in all of her anger and not reflect anger back at her. I am learning, slowly learning, to see her hurt, but not mirror it.
Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting hurt kids is super hard. I think hosting is an incredible opportunity, but I cannot tell you it’s always easy. It’s not. Not easy, but absolutely worth it.