This week, one of our teeny boys, Asher, was gifted some water floats. He loves to swim. Asher is a good swimmer, but not a safe one. He doesn’t stop attempting to swim, even if the water is freezing cold. When we are outside, we put him in a flotation device whether it is appropriate swimming temperature or not.
Because he WILL jump in. To test out the water.
He HAS to know if it is warm or cold.
Warm means he will swim until I pull him from the water.
Cold means he will still swim, but find the surface on his own. Not always quickly.
But he will.
I used to try and control his movement. To save him from the cold. It didn’t work.
He has to try. He must learn this on his own. So instead of holding tightly, I let go.
And shiver as I watch my teeny boy hurl himself from my grasp into the cold water.
And I learned the lesson.
These past months, we have been in a normal but odd-feeling transition. We have seen some of our kids chase demons. Or be chased by them. We have seen struggle and success and struggle and heart crushing defeat.
This is the life we live, with scarred humanity. Some of my kids bear more overt scars than others. And that is hard. And not always okay. And not everyone understands.
I know that I don’t.
I hear that God doesn’t dish out more than we can handle. I hear that a lot.
I know the meaning is good. I do know. But good intention does not equal truth.
If God gives us only what we can handle God is rendered irrelevant.
He becomes unnecessary if I can do it alone. And I am sure that I cannot.
Can any person really handle humanity’s failings?
So here I sit, on my computer, hashing out how life works. And contemplating the aftershock of foster care and tragedy. And the whys of behavior rooted in abuse and neglect and trauma. And all because Asher was gifted some floats. My brain is weird.
The truth is, I like what is logical. And nothing borne of tragedy is logical. There is no sense to be found in behavior that births only innocent victims. Therein is the life of children in the foster system. Searching for clear answers in murk and mire. Some never understanding: There are no good answers.
And these children can be swallowed up in anger. And rightly so. Having zero control over any aspect of any single part of life brings rage and confusion and fury. The very human response to loss of control yields a battle for control. So children enter this war, armed with logical reasons to be angry, but fighting the wrong enemy.
A few years ago.
When our children first came to live with us, I thought I was prepared to let go. I knew they wouldn’t stay, foster training told us this fact over and over. But then – adoption. And we settled into a quasi-quiet existence with former-foster-youth I could legally call mine. I didn’t have to wonder when the call would come moving them from our fold to another.
But then hopefully, they get old.
And I still want to direct and guide and boss.
And I can’t. Or shouldn’t.
What the heck.
I want to save them.
But that isn’t right.
At some point, just like Asher’s obsession with swimming, the need to jump can take over. The fantasy of the past, the curiosity of what was or could be can become the all-consuming focus. And like the frigid water, it has to be investigated. Sometimes, just being told it is cold will not work. And that is not necessarily always bad. Even if it makes my bones shake to witness. Because regardless of my warnings or attempts to rescue him from diving headfirst into waters that will inevitably sting, he will jump.
Ready or not. Cold water or warm. They will jump. Flinging body and soul into the abyss.
And all we can do is hope and pray we have provided them a sufficient flotation device. And hopefully enough sense to aim for shore. So that even if they go under for a bit, and we totally panic – There is always the hope that they will rise to find the surface