When I look at my children, I often see them as they are on the outside.
Smelly (face it...kids smell...not good!).
Then sometimes, God blesses me with a look inside. Then I see just a small heart, and it's laying nestled in my hands. It is very obviously a gift.
Today as we sat around the table, we were talking with The Boy about control and trust. How we really don't have control. He gets that intellectually but for the child from a hard place, the illusion of control is all they have. He is holding on tight to that illusion for dear life. He lives in a constant state of control. Fear. It guides all his decisions.
Often he will sit perched, like he's ready to spring out of his seat at a moments notice. Especially if he's in your lap. Never relaxed.
Recently he snuck some pretzels out of the pantry and ate them in his room. Then he panicked. And rather than come talk with me, he didn't trust that I'd forgive him, he ate soap and hair gel. This was to cover the smell of the pretzels on his breath.
That fear turns off all logical thinking and he just acts in total self-preservation. This is so common of a traumatized child. This intelligent boy panicked. Flight, fight, or freeze!
As we talked today about learning to trust that God will do all for good so that we can give that up fear and illusion of control, Tony asked him,
"Do you believe that we like you? Do you believe that we love you?"
Head bowed he responded with a very wishy washy, "yes". And suddenly his countenance that is always guarded and watchful crumbled. Tears brimmed.
"Do you really?" I asked, "Because the look on your face says you aren't so sure. Look in my eyes. We. Chose. You. We. Picked. You. We. Wanted. You."
Tony, "The first moment I saw a picture of you, I knew. You. Were. My. Son. Mine." pause. "Can you tell me something we do that makes you feel loved?"
Silence. This precious boy whom I have labored over for 3 1/2 years; Who Tony has reached out to for 3 1/2 years cannot think of something that we do that makes him FEEL LOVED.
All the other children, thinking we are playing a game are giggling with their hands raised. They all begin naming ways they feel loved: presents, hugs and kisses, being sung to, read to...
Finally the boy murmmers, "When you take me to soccer." Tears begin to fall for real now.
"Why are you crying" I ask as he crawls into my lap.
"Because, my old parents, they never hugged me."
I cannot choke down the tears. Later, I cannot even relay this conversation to my mother-in-law without beginning to cry.
"This?" I tell him, "This is the real Boy. He is sad. And there is nothing wrong with feeling sad. The Boy I usually see is pretending nothing is wrong a lot. But the REAL Boy has a lot of sadness. I wish the real Boy would share his sad feelings with me more often. Because I love him and love to hug him."
Suddenly we are surrounded with sisters who all want to hug The Boy. He is inundated with giggling girls who love their big brother and want to see him smile. And he smiles. A real smile. And for the first time in a long time, relaxes in my lap.