Sunday, October 11, 2009
Not Your Usual Energy Crisis
It seems we are living in a sort of climate unlike anything I've known before. Somehow, we are creating huge amounts of energy without the proper control structures in place.
Now you should never doubt that my husband and I love the exuberance of childhood. We love the giggling and games, the free spirited life of children who do not have to live by a clock. We admire their ability to live in the moment and not worry about what has been or what will come. And additionally not worrying about who will come behind and clean up all the fun that was had in that moment. We adore childhood. We have arranged our life and chosen the road less traveled just so we could remain, for a time longer, blessed by the presence of small children in our home.
But somewhere along the way the energy here changed. Maybe it's just for a day. Maybe someone is going through a stage or someone is being triggered by the change in the weather. There are many possible explanations, but non of them satisfy my need to understand the less than friendly spirits that have moved into my home.
We seem to have energy with no rules. Whirling Dervish comes to mind. The Dervish is a mystical dancer that stands between the material and cosmic worlds. But even his dance has a precise and structured rhythm and movement. So I will have to describe our girls' energy as whirling. Whirling is not be confused with "twirling" which conjures up images of angelic beings in pink tutus moving gracefully to classical music.
We are Chaos. We are the kind of energy that moves without reason and without direction, destroying anything in it's path. Our energy causes shoes to fly over the banister from upstairs and trash cans to overturn. It causes bathrooms to flood and oatmeal to find it's way to the ceiling.
There is a line in the sand where a home that rocks with the energy of happy, healthy children becomes something else, something sinister perhaps. And lately I feel like we have crossed that line.
The difference, I believe, is that our energy became Frantic. Frantic is the child who lies with her back over the sofa and kicks the window blinds incessantly. Frantic is the child who cries for an hour because she does know which coloring book to choose. Frantic is a child coming close to losing consciousness because she has to drink juice from a blue cup, which was her favorite color yesterday. Frantic is seen in the primitive play of children who only dump boxes of toys out and then show no interest in them. Frantic is the parent, always a step behind, performing damage control and waste transfer while disasters are occurring around the next corner.
Frantic children want their parents to be in their world. They show how much they want their parents near by climbing on them, shouting their names, and offering hugs with such force the adults are brought to their knees. I once may have thought these actions were something like love, but now I believe they are propelled by not love, but fear.
And fear is probably the key to understanding the dynamic of our not quite normal life. In any description of childhood play and joy, including my own, there is an assumption that children live and play in the moment, without a care or worry. But what happens if they don't live that way. What if their brains carry in entirely different map of the world?
What happens when a child does worry about their future because they remember a past that was remarkably different from their present life? What does energy look like when a child knows they were once irrefutably alone and helpless. What energy is given off by a child who has lost more in two years than most of us will lose in a lifetime? What sort of activities feel good to a child who knows at a cellular level that people go away and everything changes and the child has absolutely no control over anything.
I would guess that these child feel better when moving. Being still might mean being less alert. Being loud and moving in big ways helps make sure no one loses sight of them. "Look at me...... I am here.....Don't leave without me". Attention, any attention validates to a child that they are real and they are worth the time we spend with them. Even if we are telling them to be quiet or calm down.
Children who are sitting on your head, stomping on your toes, or dragging you by the arm are difficult to ignore, much less abandon. Children on high alert are more likely to survive. And being on high alert is a frantic kind of energy that exhausts the caregivers and keeps the child in a state of irritable agitation. It is hard to create relationships...... to learn..... to grow when the air around us is charged with such frantic energy. The days become hours to be survived. The nights become our only restful salvation. The home becomes a prison because we dare not venture out with such high anxiety pulsing through our veins.
And what could pass for play in an ordinary world is actually a battle between physics and psychology, and relaxing is a skill hidden in the brain's darkest corner. We are different than we seem, even to ourselves.
I wonder about other families, families like ours. I wonder about families who might sit down to breakfast with matching placemats and eat without incident, without blood curdling screams over spoon color, without vulture sister eyeballing everyone's plate, and all of us being one snap, crackle, pop away from a nervous breakdown. I want to know these families. I want to learn from them. At the same time, part of me hopes they do not exist because their reality will knock me further from the normality to which I aspire.
I am not despairing, simply processing. I want to understand and I want to improve. More than anything, I wish for a Peaceful Home. For my children I pray peaceful hearts. In the meantime, I practice patience, I strive to harness the energy and direct it toward something rewarding. And I try, all day and night, to help my children feel safe and loved, and to make their life feel permanent and unchanging.
I believe this is our journey. Where are you on the journey? What kind of energy do you see in your home? How are you moving forward? I'd love to know.