Storms in Parenting

Have you ever been startled awake in the middle of the night from a phone call with bad news about your son or daughter? If you’re reading this, like me, you probably have. One night I was jolted awake for a different reason. This time a violent storm was to blame.  As I laid there trying to get back to sleep between loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightning, I realized how similar it was to how we feel as parents of wayward children (I had felt it many times) – those who have problems with drugs and alcohol, self-harm, mental illness, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, same sex identity issues, are in trouble with the law, etc.

We’re often taken by surprise – shaken up. During the storm that night I laid there waiting for the thunder to subside. I began to relax, thinking it was lessening, then BOOM, another ear-piercing crash. I almost jumped out of bed. After that, it took a while for my heart to stop racing – and this pattern kept repeating. I was wide awake for a long time that night.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not frightened by storms. It was the unexpected element of surprise that shook me up. This is similar to what we experience in the situations I mentioned above. When we let our guard down, hoping our child is making progress – that this time they really do want to change, that they’re done drinking and using, that they won’t hurt themselves anymore, that they finally want a new life, that their mental illness is under control – then find out we’re wrong, it can really shake us up if we aren’t expecting anything is wrong.

BOOM. Another relapse, arrest, cuts on their body, medications aren’t working or they stop taking them; you find a suicide note or journal writings that reveal they’re not doing well again – it’s so hard. You’re heart is racing. You feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. Blood pressure rises, pulse quickens,  palms sweat, can’t sleep or sleep too much, can’t eat or eat too much. Dare we let ourselves relax again? Can we ever really rest or is this just a lull before the next thunder clasp startles us into the reality that it’s still not over?

I’ve learned to face the storms my daughter brings into my life by reminding myself that I’m not alone. God is with me.  He cares more than I can imagine – about me and my child. He can help me overcome my anxieties and fears. He can give me peace in the midst of life’s most violent storms. They may startle me and knock me off balance. I may be shaking in my shoes, shivering under the covers, but when I reach out to Him for help, He will come. I know I’ll be okay even if my child is never okay – as horrible as that would be. I can learn to walk in peace not based on what is happening in their lives. The thunder may keep crashing, the lightning keep flashing, but I will not be shaken. I’m held in His strong, loving arms.

What about you?

Two Bible verses I like are Psalm 23  “. . . even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff they comfort me . . .”

Also Psalm 75:3  “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I (God) who holds its pillars firm.”

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