Hiking and Hard Things

See that there ginormous stick?


It was a pretty cool hiking stick. It was also the source of a not-so-cool meltdown.

A couple of weeks ago Mac and I headed out on our favorite trail just the two of us. We are trying to get in a few more adventures before the weather turns from hot to hotter. Mac likes to pick up good sticks on our hikes. He found one that, I’ll admit was an exceptional find. Even though it was bigger than him, he proudly dragged it through the whole hike. I set the expectation at the outset that he could pick up whatever stick(s) he could carry on the hike but that we weren’t bringing any home. As we headed back to our car, I reminded him of the rule. That’s when the meltdown started. It started out as a whimper and a plea to keep the stick. I said “no” multiple times, which is when the whining turned in to big huge crocodile tears, and then loud crying, and finally screaming and stomping of feet.

It was awful. A full-blown meltdown in the brush y’all. He was so sad. I was now so sad. I started to question my decision to bring the big stick home. Really, was it such a big deal to just put the stick in the car? No. And in retrospect I should have let him have just that one stick as soon as I realized it’s significance to him, because it really was that unique from all his other sticks. But all of you who’ve had boys know that a mom can handle only so many sticks, rocks, leaves, you name it stashed away on the porch, the garage, his car seat, his closet. He’s a little bit like a squirrel when it comes to collecting things which is why I made that rule at the outset. More importantly, I knew my actions needed to match my words on the mere principle that he couldn’t just cry and whine to get his way this time or the next time.

In the middle of all the tears I began to see myself in my son. I’ve had more than the average number of meltdowns over the last year since his brother Nathan was diagnosed. Usually toward God and revolving around, “Why did you let Nathan be so broken and fragile and sick and not typical?” There have been tears, and screaming, and stomping of feet. It’s been with the same general attitude as Mac, “But I want it my way!”

I’m sure my tears have broken God’s heart just as much as Mac’s broke mine.

The crying didn’t stop once I strapped him into his car seat. At that point, I desperately wanted to make it all better for him and just give him the stupid stick back. I wanted his heart happy again. I’ve certainly given in many times before. But as I thought with the end in mind, I knew what I really wanted was to help him push through the hard stuff.

I have a friend who has a sign hanging in her kitchen that says, “We can do hard things.” I love that sign not because I love doing hard things. Hard things will inevitability make their way into our lives. I love the sign because of the word “we.” It doesn’t say “you” or “I.” It says “we.” We do them together. I needed to take a moment to be with Mac and help him through his pain. Because much harder stuff than parting with a hiking stick will come his way in the years ahead, especially in his role as Nathan’s brother. Part of my job is to show him the way through his pain.

So we talked a lot about how it’s okay to cry and be sad and tell mommy how he feels. We can look at the pictures of him with his stick on my phone. Next time we can come back to look for it where we left it. I even told him that God makes lots of sticks and they will be waiting for him the next time we hike together. I told him however, that I am not going to change my mind and give him the stick back. It didn’t matter what I said. He just wanted that stick. “Some other little boy will come along and take my stick!” he said.

I’ve felt that way too. Like someone else is getting all the good sticks and I’m left with this little twig of a hiking stick that doesn’t even reach the ground.

Last week I couldn’t find a decent hiking stick to lean on. Nathan’s new feeding therapist who I love is going to stop working to be at home with her kids. Mac got sick and we missed the Muffins with Mom party at school. I missed my last moms of special kiddos meeting of the year which is sorta like a lifeline for me once a month. my husband’s car (the one that was paid off) got totaled in an accident that wasn’t his fault. And our Internet and TV service went down for 24 hours from a storm the night before – not a big deal in the whole scheme of things except that I was home with a sick child meant no Netflix or U-verse to help nurse him back to health. It was a bad week. All of my sticks were getting taken away. I had nothing to lean on.

By Friday night, I had a full on meltdown on my poor husband who was feeling equally overwhelmed and quite possibly was more tired than me because he spent the night at the hospital on Wednesday with Nathan who was undergoing his second sleep study. It was Friday but we were far from able to relax. We needed a stinkin’ big stick to help us climb up this trail.

After lots of tears we rallied on Saturday morning and started tackling problems one at a time. The Internet and TV were working again. Big win right there. And Mac was feeling much better so we all went down and bought a car for my husband. It was a great experience not because the car is so great (in fact, it’s worth mentioning that it’s a manual transmission and now I need to learn how to drive a stick). It was great because it was very clear to both of us which one we should buy. And also, because my husband and I dealt with the hard stuff together.

I’m glad to say that Mac has since recovered from the stick incident. I think I’ve recovered from my hard week.

After you do something hard it changes you just a little bit. It strengthens you for the next hard thing and leaves you less alone in the world. Now I need to find one of those “We can do hard things” signs, because I’m sure I’ll be at it again tomorrow.

“having been firmly rooted and now being build up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude.” -Col 2:7

My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

#hiking #hobby

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