Thursday, October 17, 2013

Clipping Nails and Trusting God

"Today's the day," Alex announced as we were getting ready for school.  "It's time to cut Joshie's nails."

My daughters and I groaned in unison.  We all hate it when this has to happen.  When we engage in the massive challenge that is cutting my son's fingernails, we have to shut all of our doors and windows first because he screams like we were torturing him. I have thought about visiting our neighbors and interpreting for them what is going on so they don't call Child Protective Services but I figure, they already know Josh and have heard plenty of his strange sounds.

This is a child swallows 12 pills every day, gets an intramuscular shot every morning, gets a blood draw done every month and handles all of these things maturely and peacefully, like they are just a fact of life.  When we go to the pediatrician's office to get flu shots, it's my autistic child that I am least worried about.  Josh obeys my requests better than any other child that I am currently parenting.  He even sometimes does his chores without my having to ask!  Generally, these days, Josh is a sweet, compliant kid until we take out the nail clippers.  Though legally blind, Josh can see the little silvery tool from a mile way and he immediately starts yelling "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" Suddenly we become evil, untrustworthy parents who are intentionally trying to inflict great pain on our child.

But what can we do?

The thing is, Josh's nails grow faster than any one's in our household.  Maybe it's the growth hormone shot that he gets every day.  You blink and his nails look like Marilyn Manson's.  

Also, Josh has no qualms with putting his hands anywhere then into his mouth or nose.  Josh went through a season where he loved to caress public garbage cans (where he would find pre-chewed gum stuck to those garbage cans and stick it in his mouth).  A few months ago, Josh and I were walking to pick my girls up from their school.  As we walked across a grassy area, and as I was distracted by chatting with another parent that I knew,  he felt that he needed to scratch his groin so he just pulled his pants and underwear down and did what needed to be done.  By the time I reached him and quickly pulled his pants back up, he had already moved on to picking his nose.  He's a strange kid but I love him.  

I have Josh wash his hands a lot but suffice it to say that keeping Josh's nails trimmed is part of what we have to do to minimize the grossness of our lives and of our household.  

And let me tell you that we've tried it all: cutting his nails while he sleeps, clipping after long bath, promising great, sugary rewards. Nothing works.  At some point, we have to bite the bullet and cut his nails.

Now, the level of strategy that this endeavor entails might rival any NFL game or great, historic battle.  First we discern which room in our house has the best light.  Then, my 6 foot 3 inch tall husband has to put his strength into holding him down without hurting him while I try to cut with speed, agility and accuracy.  Josh is 107 pounds now so he's quite strong.  Alex and I end up often sweating, usually swearing.  Sometimes we go the extra mile and do the toes but the priority is the fingernails.

Hope usually ends up weeping because defending her brother is one of the strongest impulses in her 7 year old life.  She knows that we are not hurting him but she can't bear to hear him scream.  When Josh's screaming gets really bad, Hope gives us the stink eye and tells us that we are bad parents.  Anna goes into another room and buries her head into a book.  I picture my girls having to debrief this scene with a therapist years from now.  I'm just trying to do what's good and healthy for my son but it just creating so much tension and conflict for everyone.  

Sometimes I wonder if this is what God experiences with me when he is trying to wrestle me into some sort of cleansing or pruning.  As I look back on my life, there are so many things that God has had to regularly strip me of so that I can have a healthier life.  Toxic relationships have had to be severed.  Bad patterns of negative self talk has had to be regularly clipped off.  Addictions have had to be cleaned up.  I know that, were it not for God's loving intervention, parts of my life and soul would be blacker and grosser than the inside of Josh's nails when it's way past time for clipping.

And how have I responded?  Sometimes, I feel like I writhe and scream as much as Josh does.  I yell at God that it's going to hurt. I ask why He is doing this and I accuse him of being a bad, bad God for doing these things to me.  Unexpected transitions, unmet expectations, aberrations from the usual societal norms, these things have all felt scary and threatening to my human sense of what is safe and okay.  Yet there are times when God has drawn near, held me down and said, "Sweetie, it's time.  We're going to do some cleaning up today because I love you and I want good for you."

Strangely, this morning we experienced a true miracle.  Alex got out the clippers and Josh remained calm.  It was clearly still hard for him.  He still tensed up when we started but, as the picture above shows, it was the first time in years that clipping nails was a one parent job.  There was no screaming, kicking or having to hold him down.  He just sat in a chair like a normal person and waited until the unpleasant task was finished.  It feels like Josh just woke up one day and decided to trust us.

I wish I could experience this type of miracle in my own heart towards God.  When God does something in my life that I don't understand or that I fear, I want to experience a supernatural, miraculous ability to trust that He has my good in mind and that He loves me.  I want to stay calm where I used to resist.  I want to be able to sit still and let my Father who loves me come close to me and help me with my personal spiritual hygiene, no matter how yucky or intimidating things may be.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Feeling Secure

A few weeks ago the kids and I happened to visit a park in town that we hadn't been to in a while.  To our surprise, the city had replaced one of their regular swings with an adaptive swing, one intended to give more support to a child, likely one with some sort of special needs.  Josh found his way into it and immediately started smiling and laughing.

His sister pushed him for a while and when she stopped, Josh said, "Want more push."  Between his two sisters and I, we must have pushed him on that swing for at least 30 minutes.  Each time we stopped, Josh asked, "Want more.  Want more." He requested with such a sweet cackle/ giggle that we couldn't say no.  We were pushing him higher than he's ever swung before and he was just loving it, laughing loudly like a lunatic the whole time.  

When we finally stopped to rest, I realized that, while Josh loved swinging when he was younger, he hasn't been a fan of playing on swings for quite a long time.  We have a park near our house that only has regular swings and he never wants to be on it, preferring to sit in the sand and watching the sand pour through his fingers instead.  It's been years since I've pushed this kid on a swing.

Why, then. did Josh want to swing on this swing so much?  And why was it making him so darned happy?  Why was he willing to take a risk to let us swing him so high?  It dawned on me that, due to the shape and design of this adaptive swing, Josh felt secure in it.  He is quite sensory seeking so he loved the proprioceptive input that he got from a swing. However, because of his low tone and poor core muscles, I think that he feels insecure about being swung and having to hang on for himself.  But with the extra support of this adaptive equipment, he could relax and just give himself to the experience of swinging.

This observation made me think about how there might be other ways that Josh might be willing to take new risks if he had more support, specifically, a better sense of feeling secure.  Might Josh be willing to roller skate some day if we figured out a situation that worked for him?  The very thought of it makes me laugh out loud!

I also found myself thinking about some of the ways that I might be willing to take new risks or enjoy a certain activity if I had more support in some way that I feel insecure.  For example, might I do more writing if I had the equivalent of an "adaptive swing" in my life?  Could I fly higher in some way, laughing as I went, asking God or my community or a mentor that I "want more push"?

How about you?  Is there some way that you have been avoiding something wonderful because you feel insecure?  How might you seek out an "adaptive swing" experience?