I even have a superstition that has grown on me
as the result of invisible hands
coming all the time..
Namely, that if you follow your bliss
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while,
waiting for you.
And the life that you ought to be living,
is the one you ARE living.
-joseph campbell

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.


  1. In that last photo, Party Nan is catching some *serious* air. Wow. :)

    C and D are such different people. Their makeup is entirely different, as different as can be. It's almost astonishing to me.

    That being said, I am totally getting this post (I think).

    A peaceful home is a happy home; one free from chaos. And I have a really good feeling that you and Mark are going to be just the family that is able to achieve this balance.

    I cannot imagine this journey you are on. And I certainly know that you are not out looking for accolades, but sister, I have much admiration, love and respect for you; your grace under pressure, your resolve in the face of chaos, the clarity by which you have written your family's mission statement.

    Thank you for letting me come along on your family's wild ride and for keeping it real. Praying for peace (on a local level). :D

  2. Sherri,

    I so hear what you are saying. I think we have a much different energy in our home, but it can be just as maddening! My boys are still learning how to be brothers. We have daily, heated fights over silly little things like which one is Mickey Mouse and which one is Donald! Which one gets to be the "captain". Drives me crazy! And little Pixie Princess and I have daily battles. Any time I try to redirect her, she completely shuts down. That can lead to her just going stiff and silent, or it can be her rushing me. I think we are all still so at being families that they are still just settling. Hugs to you. I know you will find your groove.

  3. Interesting post, great writing. Troubling too since we some of this with one child. I can only imagine the dynamics when we add a second child of a different gender and two years younger. Then if we add more how that will change the dynamics. We know how adding different pets to the mix changes dynamics for good / bad but persons is a new experience.

  4. I totally understand and know what you are saying. Kaylee is exactly like you were describing. She's happy but she's not about to let anybody out of her sight. Being alone in a room is not something that happens often. I never thought of her actions like this but it makes sense.

    Jaycen having Aspergers fits this profile too but multiplied many times. He is full of anxiety and need for constant attention.

    What you are saying makes perfect sense and I too don't know (or have ever known) a house without frantic chaos. People on the outside can only take us in doses and sometimes I wish I could take it in doses too...

  5. Wow! Wow! Sherri, I feel you are looking through my front window. The way you describe your family is chillingly similar to the way I see my own. So much anxiety, stress and pressure in such small bodies. Who can blame them for the constant need for validation? I am exhausted every night, but every day I hope we have changed at least one cell of their neurological makeup that leads them on the road to healing. It is a long, long journey, but I am fast beginning to understand that this is how it is meant to be. Our kids will help us heal, as we struggle to help them accept the past and face the future as strong, proud and courageous adults. Some days I wish I could get off the carousel just long enough to catch my breath, but I know it won't ever happen. One day we will look back and know we did everything we could and more for our little families. I would not change a moment and I hope I live to see the day when they are parents themselves and they can share where we got it wrong - lol. Whatever we do, we will make mistakes, but we will make them with the purest of hearts and the best of intentions.