It took me years, but I know how to get my kids to a place where it’s time to talk. They really don’t need much. Undivided attention, unconditional love, and some time. For us, bedtime, car rides, dinner alone, a church service with unhurried space at the end, a walk- they all share a few things in common: no rules on subject, no distractions (like cell phone demons), no sense of schedule. Then they talk. Fun talk, serious talk, us talk. It’s all sacred.
When I’m functioning at my best, I intention those moments. When I’m a little above average, I at least notice them. But of late those moments are often painful- wrought with doubts and onerous questions. Really the same question, sifted through a filter of age and understanding. Over the last week, just seven days (five to be exact), I’ve fielded these three questions.
On Saturday Brayden and I were eating guacamole. There’s something soothing about palming an avocado pit and letting it slink across my fingers. It has to be a very ripe avocado, not those hard green ones. “Why did we have to get a crazy mom?” he asked between bites. There’s a little bit of translation work to be done with an eight year old boy.
“What do you mean, buddy?”
“Out of all of the moms in the world, why does our mom have to be crazy?”
“Do you mean, why does she have a disease that makes her different?”
“I don’t know, pal. I sure do hate it though, don’t you?”
“Yeah. I wish she didn’t have to be crazy.”
A couple of days later, Carsyn came to me with a quivering lip. Even I notice those. Tiffanni used to ask me, “Did you see what that girl was wearing?”
“I didn’t even see a girl,” I usually responded. The S in my MBTI profile stands for Scant.
Carsyn asked, “Doesn’t he know how hard it is for an 11-year old to not have a mom?” You see, these questions have no preface. We start there. I have to switch on my translator and empathizer instantaneously.
“He does baby, he knows it’s hard.”
“Then why doesn’t he do something?”
“I don’t know, baby. But I know it’s super hard for you.” And then she softened the sleeve of my shirt with her tears.
Addyson wasn’t far behind with her question that week. There’s no off-days here. Instant in season and out.
“Has God ever healed anyone of Huntington’s Disease?”
“I don’t know, baby. I’ve never heard of it, but the world is pretty big.”
“I sure wish God would heal mom. Why doesn’t he?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s not fair.”
“No, it’s not fair.” And she burrowed her face deep into the space between my collarbone and my cheek. Her safe space that day. The consolation prize to her unanswerable question.
Two things that I’ve learned about the questions lately. First, they’re all the same question. The same one question. “Why?” They articulate it in a hundred different ways, but they all fly-by, circle, and finally land on the same runway- why? Second, none of the questions need answers, really. They just need to be asked and then to be heard. Most of the time, anything more than an “I don’t know” simply misses the point. The truth is that I would simply ramble until I barely satisfied my own need for an explanation anyway.
So, they ask their questions. Or question really. And I answer. Or don’t really. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that they need to ask them and I need to hear them. I need to hear in that question that my kids are dealing, dealing the right way. Not that there’s a wrong way, but there’s a refuge there in those questions- a place where my fear of the kids not making it out of this thing normal is met with the solace in knowing they remain normal when asking this most fundamental, universal question of humanity- Why? And ironically in that simple question, we make it another week. Normal.