Friday, January 28th 2011
The Problem With Church

Ethan-10yr has been on strike on Sunday mornings. At first he said he wanted to sit with me during church instead of being with the other kids. Then he made some dubious charges about other kids not acting right, but when I questioned him, he couldn’t describe behavior any different than his own behavior on an “off day.”

But he wouldn’t go.
And he wouldn’t really tell me why.

But that’s not all right. It’s my maternal duty to make the child tell me everything so I can hover, overprotect, beat up anybody who mighta hurt my kid in such a way that would explain this. You could say I overreacted and feared the worst. Because I really did.

This afternoon I sent the little ones outside with snacks, sat on the couch with Ethan-10yr and did and said everything I could to pry the truth out of him without him realizing I was doing it. It took two hours and a lot of tears from both of us.

The problem is rather sweet.

There’s a kid at church who always asks about Kim-16yr. He isn’t being mean. He’s just doesn’t understand this weird dynamic in our family and is trying to make sense of it and ask Ethan-10yr how he’s doing with having a sister who doesn’t live with him. He’s being a friend. And Ethan-10yr can’t handle it. He tells him he doesn’t want to talk about it, or he ignores him, or gets mad and walks away, or thinks it would just be better if he didn’t go near him anymore.

I understand. While I don’t mind being pretty open about most anything with anyone, I don’t confuse that with really knowing people and allowing them to really know me in return. That hardly ever happens, and I like it that way. There’s hardly ever the mutual time/interest in order to know people… and then they ask you stuff… and care… and it’s all rather uncomfortable. Or it can be.

Worse might be when they stop asking or caring. Depends.  It all comes back to that mutual time/interest thing, and when that is out of balance, everything after is downhill.

I told Ethan-10yr lots of things. It was sort of like one of those nights when i cook and it goes horribly wrong. Sometimes when that happens I will overcompensate and put ten different things on the kids’ plates and hope they find 3 or 4 that are edible.  Today was the mothering/smothering equivalent.

I told him:

it’s not your fault, it had nothing to do with you

it’s okay to be upset and talk to me or to be upset and tell me you don’t want to talk to me, but just want me to know

you’ll always have people who are curious who ask you about this

this is a problem you can handle with your friend, i’ll help

i’m on your side



your brothers don’t get as upset because they’re so much younger and don’t remember

it might always be this way

it might not

but we are in this together and pleeeease talk to me next time

and on. and on.

I just threw it all out there on the plate and hoped a few of them were what he needed.

He wanted to know why. But we’ve told them why. Specifically we’ve said, “she doesn’t want to be here. she has a lot of anger and is unsafe in our home, and all the professionals we hired couldn’t change her mind because she just wasn’t interested.”

I tried that again. It’s the truth, if not a little watered down, and it doesn’t say more than he’s asking. But this time, it wasn’t enough.

The last thing I wanted to do was say too much. He’s only ten. His huge brown eyes were bloodshot already and his little freckled face was splotched red. My eyes and face probably looked the same.

“I want to understand WHY.”

And don’t we all.

I held his little clefted chin that looks just like a baby-smooth version of Mike’s.

“She HATES me.”

His eyes widened.

“I’m not her biological mom, and she thinks I took daddy away from her somehow. She hates me so much that she tries to hurt me when she’s around me. That’s what we mean when we say she isn’t safe here. We mean ‘we aren’t safe when she is here.’”

There’s more, of course, but I didn’t get into it. Some details I hope he’ll never know, or need to hear.

As awful as that is, a weight seemed to come off  him as he took in these words. Knowing Ethan-10yr, and the way his mind works, I could see him making sense for the first time of why I do some of the things I do. He doesn’t know about a lot of it, but he does know about the kickboxing and the way I can overreact and go a little ninja if someone comes up behind me unexpectedly.

It wasn’t a nice thing to have to hear, but now his life made more sense. The relief was visible on his face.

He has a really sweet friend who would be there if he ever needed him.

If he’d only let him in.

And a mother who will cry in his hair and suffocate him with good intentions.

I’ve worried about what was bothering him for two weeks. I’m not worried anymore. He’s all right. He’s just growing up and trying to figure out how to deal with the life that he has, the people who are in it, and the people who are curious enough to care.

I won’t tell him, but that’s a life-long task.


8 Comments on “The Problem With Church”

Jennifer Sullivan
January 28th, 2011
9:29 pm

I think you did the right thing by telling him. I think he was mature enough to hear it and I think he really needed to hear it. You did the right thing. You are a good mommy.
Jennifer Sullivan recently posted..Ok- this is the last of the pics for today- promise!

January 29th, 2011
8:31 am

HM, I think you just found your next book.
.endtransmission. recently posted..Right Boot

January 29th, 2011
9:46 am

(((((Big Hug)))))

January 29th, 2011
9:54 am

thanks… sometimes the good mommy thing isnt’ enough, though. i know you get that, too.
.endtransmision…. huh. never, ever woulda thought of that. it’d mean a big genre change and actually writing. something to think about!
thank you! my eyes are ugly/puffy today.

Jennifer Sullivan
January 29th, 2011
11:13 pm

Am praying that Ethan has an easier time in church tomorrow.
Jennifer Sullivan recently posted..Blissful quiet

January 29th, 2011
11:22 pm

That all makes me so sad. Is there ever a way to make an impossible situation right again? And you must suffer, too, every time the subject is addressed.

Family dynamics are the worst. I’m glad Ethan’s doing better, and hugs to you.
Linda recently posted..Two hookers on the radio seeking Jesus

January 30th, 2011
5:25 pm

thanks…! he did, he was SO relieved, and we got it all straightened out with the other little guy who was just being too sweet for E to handle.

You know… it doesn’t. Not anymore, but I could understand why people might think so. what helps is that my life now is safe and peaceful. There were years of hell where sleep was the enemy and every noise meant i needed to go check where everyone was, 24/7. mentally staying ahead of any possible threat is exhausting, but that’s too bad because you can’t sleep. That was my life, and now it isn’t… and I’m so thankful I can’t possibly be upset anymore. it’s not what I wanted or envisioned, but neither was the hell that i had before!

that ‘hookers’ title has me intrigued, and i will be heading your way shortly!

January 31st, 2011
3:55 am

Praying for you. A hard situation but looks like you responded with a lot of love and though boys pretend they don’t like that, I think secretly they really do. :)

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