When You “Hate” Your Kids

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If you have kids you’ll understand what follows.  If you don’t, you’ll probably be horrified.  Rated rRated for less-than-good-parent language.

I have 3 kids.  A 4 year old. A five year old.  An eight year old.  Dark days indeed.  The fighting, whining, disrespect, property damage – all come part and parcel to parenting young children – regardless of what mad skills you might have in your quiver.

Of course I don’t hate my kids, nobody really does.  We just feel, let’s say, a very strong dislike towards them from time to time.  What’s funny/interesting is the difference between how we feel about them when they’re “good,” and how we feel about them when they’re not.  We get warm feelings when they’re playing nice, eating all their food, cleaning up, loving their siblings, sleeping – and very different feelings when they’re doing things that anger us.  They’re not so cute anymore.  The mere sight of them brings up feelings of disgust.  You’d think we’d just get a little frustrated but it goes way deeper than that for most parents.

When you have kids it’s not long before they’ll push a “button,” some unhealed wound or two that you carry inside – something that happened long ago at the hands of another human that you haven’t quite put to bed yet.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have multiple places in their soul where they’re still hurt.  I do know tons of people who’ll tell you they’ve dealt with it all –  “moved on” –  but most of us haven’t.

I have a friend who experienced something horrible years ago.  She told me she gave herself two years to grieve, then she got over it.  Sounds great, but it doesn’t work that way.  It’s likely that we’ll take so many of our buttons to the grave, mainly because we have no respect whatsoever for how deep they are.  The cutesy moniker “buttons” betrays how clueless we are to their severity.

Either way, when our kids push our buttons it hurts, and it’s easy to see these little button-pushing fuckers as enemies – people who don’t care about us, against whom we have to defend ourselves – that’s how we respond when we feel hurt.  That’s why kids appear different when they’ve done something that’s not only wrong, but rubs its finger in our unhealed areas.  That’s why we lose our shit at some of the shit they pull.  We’re on the defensive.  We’re retaliating, many times in ways that will create the same buttons in them that we’ve been wandering through adulthood with.

In the past, when other people have pushed our buttons, we’ve been able to distance ourselves, or break the relationship altogether.  But you can’t do that with kids, we have to stay engaged.

My eight year old did something small yesterday that made me very angry.  When I drop her off at school she gets out of our minivan through the sliding door on the passenger side.  She usually can’t close the door herself so I always ask her to close it enough so I can reach it from the driver’s seat and slide it the rest of the way.

Yesterday am She got out of the car, stood and looked at me as I said “goodbye, have a nice day at school.”  It had been a tough morning – we were all a bit edgy.  “Please slide the door a little bit my way so I can reach it, honey.”  She slid the door a couple centimeters and walked off.  “Hey, please get back here and close the door.”  A couple more centimeters.  I shot her a dirty look, got out of my seat, closed the door.  She walked off.  Button.  Pushed.

I sat in the car and watched her walk away.  Usually when I do this I think about how much I love her, but this am all I could think about was retaliation.  But my hard-core negative feelings for her had nothing to do with what just went down, and everything to do with my buttons, which unfortunately, had just called the shots in a difficult situation.

This was one of those rare mornings however when I stopped to think about what really happened – what was underneath it all.  Sure, she was intentionally disrespectful, and we dealt with that later, but she’s a good kid.  She’s not my enemy, and there’s no misbehavior that we can’t work through.

Thinking about my buttons above her infraction brought me peace and forgiveness, for both of us, and a greater vision for how to make sure my kids are always beautiful to me.

 

 

 

 

A Revisionist’s Take on David, Goliath, Kids, and Marriage

There’s a story in the Old Testament that isn’t translated correctly in our English bibles.  When I read it “right” for the first time, it changed everything about the way I think about God, and the way I think about the way God thinks about me – and ultimately the way I engage the difficult things of my life.

Our bibles tell a story of an underestimated, highly skilled underdog defeating a giant.  If you’ll let me, I’d like to tell you a different story.  The following interpretation is taken directly from a collection of Hebrew manuscripts commonly used in the creation of our modern bibles.

The armies of the Philistines and the Israelites face each other but won’t engage.  King Saul, who’s described as the most qualified soldier in the army, shudders in his tent, afraid to face the giant who has walked onto the field with a challenge. “Send someone out to fight me.  If your man wins we’ll be your slaves, If I win you’ll be ours.”

The author of this story has alot to say about the giant.  He’s really big, covered from head to toe in about 120 pounds of armor, carries a spear that most of us couldn’t heft, much less throw, and is so important/experienced in battle that he has someone to go before him to protect him with a shield.  He’s large, strong, experienced, and impenetrable.

David shows up and is so small and young that he’s ripped to shreds for even showing up on the scene.  He somehow weasles his way into Saul’s tent and claims that he can kill Goliath.  In a very sick moment, Saul places his armor on David. David removes the armor and engages the giant.

Goliath says, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick (later manuscripts have “sticks” but it seems the original (older) writing is “stick”)?”  David reaches down and grabs 5 sling stones and a stick, probably thinking something akin to “I have no idea how this is going to go down.  If five rocks don’t work, maybe I can beat him with a stick.  Let’s do this.”

As Goliath moves in for the easy kill, David lets fly with a baseball sized rock travelling about 90 mph and hits Goliath in the….

This is where the story gets really interesting in my opinion.  The Hebrew word for “forehead” and the Hebrew word for “shinguard” or “greave” is the same.   Long ago, interpreters had to figure out which one it would be.  “Greave” never appears in the Old Testament in the singular form, but “Forehead” does, many times.  So, interpreters went with precedence and gave us the story we now have – David issued a shot with pinpoint accuracy.

But let’s go with “greave,” ie, Goliath was hit in the leg.  If he was hit in the forehead with a rock that big travelling that fast, he would have been thrown backwards.  The author goes out of his way to tell us that Goliath fell forward.   If you’re hit in the leg with a baseball sized rock travelling 90 miles an hour, you’ll at least lose your balance.  If you lose your balance wearing 120 pounds of armor, you’re going down – doesn’t matter how big and strong you are.

Either way, Goliath’s now face down in the sand and has to get up, which is a little tricky when you’re bearing so much weight.  His enemy is an almost naked boy running at speed.  Goliath has dropped his sword and is now struggling to get up – take a guess who’ll get to the weapon first.  What this story really tells us is that David’s not that good with a slingshot, and that Goliath’s trust in his armor actually decided the battle.

The most difficult thing about our English translation of this story is that the biblical authors, whether you agree with them or not, didn’t write stories about people entering the battlefield and deciding the outcome with their great skill.  The Bible, over and over again, ad-nauseum, gives us stories of losers, ill-equipped and outnumbered, winning because God is on their side. You might be an atheist, or someone not interested in the Bible, and that’s fine, but when interpreting this particular ancient text, we have to understand that our white, Western, kick-ass-and-take-names, Evangelical interpretation doesn’t fit in this ancient Hebrew Bible.

David didn’t win the battle because of his skill, but because of his willingness to simply walk onto the field and face a giant – he believed that there was something that would fight for him – but nothing would happen until David engaged.

A very powerful truth when we apply this to our lives.

Here’s an example of how this story has changed my life.  Over the past 7 years, I’ve adopted 3 kids who were all abandoned, spent too much time in institutionalized care, and who now deal with a significant amount of PTSD.  Parenting them is the hardest thing I’ve ever done – my own personal “Goliath.”  I’m ill-equipped for this, naked, and armed with little more than a few rocks and maybe a stick.  But I also believe that God is on my side, unconditionally and without reservation.  Even when I’m acting like a jackass, He’ll help me here – taking care of the things I can’t handle.

But if I disengage, bad things will happen.  As weak as I am, my presence is required here.  We all have battles to fight, giants to face, most of them we can’t handle – that’s a fact regardless of what you believe.  The only thing we have in our power, the only thing we can control is whether or not we stay on the field.

I’ll close with something that might sound really cheesy, but I need to write it – not for you, but for me.

Sohpia, Amara, and Hannah – my life is yours.  I gladly left my career for you and would do the same over and again (thanx mommy for making that possible by the way).  I’m sorry for the hurt and fear that you carry inside, and for the ways I’ve added to it in my weaker moments.  I know that you’ll lash out at me so many times, and that I’ll be paying someone else’s bill for years to come.  As ill-equipped as I am, the only thing I can promise you is that I won’t disengage. I’ll face your giants, and mine, until God throws them to the ground.

Elaine, same goes for you.  I’ll be a jackass of a husband at times, playing the victim, feeling cheated, sorry for myself, betrayed, etc.  But this is my pledge to you and to the rest of the interweb that I’ll never leave the field.  There are so many beautiful things about you and about our life together that I don’t want to miss.  But when I’m blind to that, when I feel like marriage is some giant, insurmountable thing,  I’ll simply stay put until my eyes are open again.

I love you guys so much.  God help me.