I felt the familiar fear and panic rising up within my throat as I heard the sound of screaming and loud banging and thumping sounds. My 8-year-old son and teenage daughter’s clash of the titans had just erupted and a new screaming match started in the stairwell outside my room.
Each of their angry footsteps pounding up the stairs felt like an electric shock to my chest and abdomen. Their hateful screams became the mirror-image trauma to my ears that the raging footsteps were to my core.
Not again. Not now. I just can’t.
I had just laid down for the first moment all day—and that was only out of sheer necessity. I felt dizzy and like I was going to pass out. I’d pushed my body and soul to the max yet again—forgetting lunch till 3pm and then using every last ounce of my energy to clean my messy house and attend to the kids’ thousand questions and demands.
My heart was now racing with the aftermath of pushing my adrenals too far. My kidneys were feeling achy from too much coffee and not enough food. And my stomach had somewhere decided to join in this chaotic body symphony by now punishing me for my lunch choices.
I just can’t be a parent right now.
I felt angry, scared, and like a little girl again—hiding from raging family members. I just wanted to stick my fingers in my ears to block out the sound. Maybe it would all just go away if I waited long enough.
But it didn’t.
It got louder and more volatile. I knew I had to intervene but I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t cruising in my adult brain at the moment. Instead, I had been traumatically flung into animal brain and flight mode—I actually just wanted to run away. I had zero strategies floating around.
The only thing I found enough energy to do was shoot up a desperate SOS prayer as I shakily stood up from where I had been lying on my floor:
Jesus, I can’t do this…
I walked out into the hall and quickly surveyed the damage of the moment. I had emerged just in time to see my 12-year-old daughter charging up the stairs with fiery hate in her eyes. I knew I had to act fast. My son was standing 5 feet away from where she would emerge with a clock poised in his hand—ready to throw it at her.
Stupid yard sale clock. It’s so ugly. Why didn’t I already put that in the donations bag?
That’s where my exhausted, trauma-triggered brain found itself. No strategies were surfacing—just thoughts about how much I hated that clock and questions as to why I had even let my daughter buy it in the first place.
I felt like I was in the middle of a war zone. Chaos dominated.
Emotional shrapnel was flying everywhere and I didn’t know how to contain it or where to direct my efforts. Two of my kids were visual at the moment, but I had no idea where the other two were. Were they hiding around a corner, also waiting to engage? I didn’t know how many soldiers were involved in this particular battle.
I was just hoping for the least amount of casualties as possible.
I walked over to my son, since he seemed to be right at the centerpoint of battle and I placed my hands gently on his shoulders: “What’s going on?”
I could tell he wanted help. But before he could even answer, my daughter emerged from the stairs and started hurling more emotional missiles at him.
My son cried out loudly in response, dropped the clock, and ran off to his room—slamming the door as he sought solace in the only place he knew to hide. Wrenching, angry sobs immediately followed—broadcasting from behind the door.
Oh my God. Was I raising another emotional isolater?
I felt devastated at the thought. That possibility in itself added another layer of fear and trauma to my own heart. I knew that I had spent an entire childhood isolating whenever I felt emotionally or physically hurt. Was I now perpetuating this same behavior onto my children? I couldn’t handle the ramifications.
Just then my second teenage daughter emerged from a nearby bathroom, where she had clearly been hiding from my son’s wrath. The participating soldiers and battle issue was now becoming clearer to me: One little boy pitted against the snarky world of teenage harassment.
I felt a rush of adrenaline and anger course throughout my body. Why couldn’t they just stop pushing his buttons? And why couldn’t he just ignore their lameness?
My anger then transferred over to my own injustice. I felt persecuted in my own home. I felt completely desperate and alone—even though I was supposed to be in charge. I had my own issues to work on. But this constant emotional barrage of triggers launching from my children’s immaturity was just making everything worse.
If only I could cry to get some of this out—but I couldn’t. I had learned long ago to stuff my emotions in favor of survival and not rocking any boats.
I was at the end of myself here. I had nothing left to give my kids. The fear, anger, and adrenaline that had just coursed through my body as a result of the screaming and loud stomping around had left me like a deflated balloon.
But I had to do something:
“Don’t come in!” my son cried out.
“It’s Mommy. Can I come in?”
“Please? Can I come in?” I asked—cracking the door open a tiny bit.
And there he was—sitting all alone and bereft in his chair. When I first opened the door, I still had the anger and adrenaline rushing through my veins. But as I saw him sitting there, something majorly shifted within me. Anger melted away and my heart just broke. It was like Heaven’s veil parted and I saw my son with supernatural eyes.
My entire being was illumined with God’s love and compassion.
In that moment, it didn’t matter how many times this kid had put me through the emotional fire or how many times he had triggered my own issues. I saw him now in his humanity through the eyes of love. He was irresistible. I just had to love on him.
“Can Mommy come in? Can I just hold you?” I asked him.
I didn’t know what I was doing other than following the prompting within my own spirit. My soul had been taken out through the earlier emotional barrage. It was totally benched. But my spirit stepped forward in that moment and reassured my soul: “I got this one.”
My son let me come into his room and pick him up into my arms.
It had been a while since I’d held him. He was so much bigger and heavier than he used to be as a toddler—when I’d held him all the time. So I transitioned to sitting on the floor and holding him in my lap.
He was sobbing and angrily talking all at the same time.
Story after story poured out of him. All of the day’s injustices. All of his life’s injustices. I just let him cry. I let him say everything that he wanted to. I knew somehow not to ruin the time by inserting explanations or any type of logic.
The anguish in his soul needed to get out.
I interjected a few times with various affirmations: “That sounds awful”; “I’m so sorry you had such a rough day”; “That sounds so frustrating.”
But mostly I just listened.
The whole time he was talking, I alternated between holding him tightly to stroking his face and arm to calm him down. I knew one of his love languages was physical touch, and I wanted to make sure he left our time together having his love tank majorly filled up—even if I couldn’t solve his sibling rivalry problems.
And as I sat there just holding Him—I also felt God holding me and loving me in the exact way that I needed to be loved.
It felt surreal. It felt holy.
With each new pain that my son voiced and I affirmed, God was also affirming me at the same time: “This is how I hold you. This is how I listen to you. This is how I comfort you. My arms are always open.”
God poured his love and comfort into me the entire time that I was pouring into my son.
My body may have been a deflated balloon but my heart was soaring. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. God streamlined his love to and through me at the same time.
My son continued on for about ten more minutes, switching back and forth between his sobs and angry discourses. But slowly the anger started to dissipate. The sobs lessened. Pretty soon he was telling me all about his new video game and how well he was doing in conquering it. He was beating all of his sisters, he said. He actually smiled.
My God—could it seriously be this easy?
When we come to Him as little children—we will find Him.
He will always embrace us if we let Him.
That embrace is life-changing.
“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:3).
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14).