When I was in college, I had this thing on my face. It was right over my top lip and for the most part, it wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me. It would get swollen sometimes and I kept thinking it was one of those zits that builds up under the skin and hurts soooo bad (my sister and I call those “fainters” because you black out if you try to do anything to it). Anyway after a few months of it coming and going and me blacking out from messing with it, I went to a doctor who said it was a tiny cyst and burned it off.
Anyway, I am kind of a smiley and laughy person and my teeth are too big for my mouth so I smile real big and my mouth is always open. And it took that little burnt spot FOREVER to heal. Every time I laughed too heartily or smiled too big, it would crack and start to bleed. And I knew I needed a good 3 or 4 days of not laughing or smiling widely or that thing was just never going to heal. It was so frustrating.
Eventually, it did heal. I don’t remember how long it took, but it is gone and I barely even have a scar now, but I remember how frustrating that was.
So why am I telling you about my long ago burned facial anomalies?
When we brought Matthew home, I knew not to expect too much from him, if anything. But even going into the situation with low expectations, I hoped–for bonding, for affection, for a smile. As we weathered his grief, rejection, night terrors, etc, I began to feel raw all the time. Raw and painful and hurt and vulnerable and abused. Which I expected for a few months. I wasn’t happy about it, but I knew that after what he had been through, this was just the process–it was to be expected. I knew he was feeling raw too, and I was doing my best to comfort him through it.
But when a few months turned into a lot of months, I wondered when he might begin to heal, and in turn, when I might begin to heal. Some days I didn’t even wonder when we would heal but if it was even a possibility.
Lately, we have a new pattern emerging in our house. Matthew will wake up one day in a great mood. It can last up to 4 or 5 days. It is amazing. Of course, there are the regular 3 year old things, but those don’t bother me a bit. And I spend that time, thinking, Oh thank you, God, we made it, we turned the dreaded corner, and I love him! I love him so much! He is such a joy–an amazing child. Thank you, God! And the rawness begins to feel some relief. The healing begins, and beautiful, new pink skin begins to cover my huge raw spot. The skin is fragile and thin, but it’s a start.
And then for no reason I can find, it is over–just as suddenly as the good mood started, it is over. Everything bothers him. He shows disdain for everything around him. His eyes look empty. He starts arguments over nothing. Seriously, I have to just walk away and leave him telling the wall that he doesn’t want to. This is the phrase he will repeat for days on end–I don’t want to. Doesn’t want to what? I have no idea, and neither does the wall. All I know is that the emerging pink skin is torn, ripped off, and I am raw and bleeding again. I am not naive nor am I so insensitive that I don’t realize that somehow, something happened to his raw spot to cause this behavior. But I am at a loss.
You know that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That apparently means you are insane. But do you know what can MAKE you insane? Doing the same thing every day and GETTING different results. Giving a child the Cheerios he asked for one day and hearing squeals of joy….giving a child the Cheerios he asked for the next day only to have him hurl the bowl across the table. And no, it isn’t ever about Cheerios, it is just something to fight about.
Right now, I would say, I have grown a pretty nice layer of pink skin on my raw spot. My guess is that Matthew has too, because our healing seems to be pretty parallel. But I feel him falling, he is in a good place, but he has been threatening to tumble into the abyss for the past 3 days. His shiny pink skin is being pulled as tightly as it can, and therefore mine is too. I can almost see the little lines of blood underneath, threatening to break through. He is testing me, he is starting things for no reason, he is hurting, and I am trying my best to tend to his wound.
Can Mommy hold you for a while?
Are you feeling sad?
Let’s talk about who loves you. Mommy, Daddy, Isaac. We love you. We will never leave you. We are forever. Omma, Appa, Nuna. They love you. They are in Korea and they will always love you.
The emotional equivalent of Neosporin, Band Aids, bedrest. Will it be enough this time? Can I keep us both from tumbling into that bad place, that place where the scab is all but gone and all that remains is the rawness, the pain?
I know that if we have come this far, I have to believe that one day in the future, all that will remain will be the scar. It won’t ever completely be gone, but it won’t throb or burn anymore. We won’t have to baby it as much. It will only be a visual reminder of the journey that we took together. Some people are self conscious about scars, they might find them ugly. But I don’t care how big or jagged this one is, because if we can make it to the scar phase, it will only mean one thing to me: that we healed.