Suffering in Silence

Silence in the face of suffering is unnatural.

While I was getting Bronson some cereal in the kitchen, I sipped some coffee and sighed deeply enjoying the glorious silence that permeated our house. Until a split-second later when I remembered Bronson – my two year old. Silence from a toddler is almost always a warning signal.

I went into the living room to discover him pinching Oliver’s nose. Why? I have no idea, other than Bronson being an older brother.┬áThe pinching wasn’t surprising, but Oliver’s reaction was.

Silence.

I put Bronson in timeout, picked Oliver up, looked into his eyes, and told him he needs to cry when he’s in danger or getting hurt or suffering in any way. For some reason, eyes-for-the-back-of-my-head didn’t arrive with his birth. I need him to cry.

Silence in suffering does not serve him well.

In a book I’m reading in a chapter on justice, the author mentions the 3 million (or more) girls sold into the sex slave industry each year. She mentions that most of the 25 million coffee farmers are forced to sell their coffee far below the cost of production, ensuring they’ll never get out of poverty – all so you and I can keep sipping cheaply. Then she tells a story of a woman who lived in a barn with virtually nothing and no real plan for a brighter future. She already had some kids, but when she encountered a little girl eating crumbs on the side of the road because her parents abandoned her, she adopted her.

This morning, Ryan sent me a link to a video about a man running across Mongolia – all 1,500 miles – to raise awareness about the street orphans of Ulaanbaatar,┬áMongolia – the coldest city in the world. I can’t imagine being a child abandoned, forced to face the elements alone.

Too often suffering is done in silence. More ears are needed, so more hands can get involved.

I’ve heard the statistics many times. At the very core of my being, I ache to do something, anything, to help people like these. But mostly I don’t.

I think many times I’m like Oliver. I let suffering be snuffed out by silence.

I do it with myself. When I’m sad, exhausted, hopeless, I clam up. I swallow the suffering, believing that crying won’t help, believing that suffering is best served by silence.

But suffering – all suffering – needs a voice.

Perhaps, this is the beginning. Oliver needs to cry when he’s suffering. I want to help him, to rescue him, to comfort him. I can’t unless I know. I can’t know unless I hear. I can’t hear if he’s silent.

I often choose to watch terrible, true movies – ones that portray the awful realities that exist in our world. I’m not a glutton for punishment. But my heart has a propensity towards hardness. I need to hear. Over and over. I need to hear the suffering. Because that’s where the changes start.

So much of the world suffers in silence. I need to do my part in giving them a voice.

And I need to give voice to my own, smaller, sufferings. We all do, recognizing that suffering’s strength is amplified by silence.

Just speaking into darkness makes it a little brighter.

So while I still don’t know what I can truly do for the millions of people experiencing suffering that I can’t even comprehend right this second. I know I can do this. I can speak. I can cry out.

Green Monster

A truck galavanting towards a head, a big toe with teeth marks – these days jealousy is all the rage in our house.

It shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does. Our oldest son was used to undivided attention, constant praise and having parents on demand. But now the child to parent ratio has been leveled, and Bronson’s desires simply don’t outweigh Oliver’s needs.

It’s no wonder jealousy is called a green monster.

Normally adorable and affectionate, Bronson transforms into a mini-monster and erupts in outrage at Oliver. Now that Oliver interacts and grips toys on occasion, Bronson has decided he’s a threat. But all his jealous outbursts do is hinder his relationships with everyone around him.

Jealousy isolates.

We have to remove him from his brother’s presence or sometimes even force him to sit by himself because his jealousy isn’t loving. His jealousy isn’t kind. And even when he manages to keep his displeasure below the surface, his jealousy results in him wondering off by himself and choosing to be alone in a huff.

When I get together with people, though, I quickly realize it’s not just the two year olds who have jealousy issues. We envy each other’s vehicles, strollers, car seats, clothes. We envy the way other children behave. We envy other people’s relationships. We envy other people’s jobs and paychecks. Just about everything is up for envy.

But all it really does is keep us alone.

We hesitate to invite people over because we’ve seen their bigger house. We hesitate to go to a play group because we’ve seen their better-behaved kids. We avoid conversations about our own jobs, our own marriages, our own lives because we’ve decided people around us are better off than ourselves. We’ve decided they must be snobs or judgmental because we envy them. We consider them a threat to our carefully constructed self-confidence. But the truth is we’re the ones judging. We’re the ones that are jealous.

And so we’re the ones alone.

I hope Bronson learns that being jealous of his brother only results in him not being near his brother, that his envy and frustration only results in a lack of quality time and trust and joy and love between them.

I hope he learns young that jealousy is a monster capable to consuming everything life has to offer.

Near

If Bronson is awake, he’s the five-step police. “Mama! Mama!”, he shouts if I’m about to take a sixth step in the opposite direction. He maintains his conviction that I must be near.

I find this simultaneously the most annoying thing in the world and the most sure sign of love. I know he loves me, needs me and wants me to be a part of his life. He invites me to join him. (Or demands, since he’s two.) He wants me near, just to be near. He wants me to pay attention.

Now, I firmly believe he needs to learn some self-entertainment skills. I would love for him to play with some of the oodles of toys strewn about our house all by himself. I think that’s important.

But, more importantly, I think he’s important. Him and his little bro are my highest calling at the moment. And when he wants me near, why not oblige?

Things are simple when you’re two. Either your mom is with you, or she isn’t. Either I’m paying attention, or I’m not. He doesn’t care about my agenda, my lists, my thoughts, or even my needing to prepare his food or clean his clothes. Either I’m the most important thing to him, or I’m not.

God doesn’t let me stray too far either. He calls when I’m steps away. He invites me to join in his story, his life. I tell him I can self-entertain. I’ll stay busy and out of his way. He reminds me it’s not busyness he wants. It’s me. By his side. Because either He’s the most important thing to me, or He’s not.

It’s simple. Either I’m staying near, or I’m straying far.

Two

It’s a couple. It’s the absence of alone and the beginning of a crowd. It’s the sign of peace, and the number of poo.

It’s the number of my children and the age Bronson will be in a few.

It’s the age of words and tantrums and time outs. It’s the age of bare toes and sweet cuddles and a counter constantly covered in goo.

It’s a half-circle joined to a straight line. It’s the preface to the things on my list of what I must do.

It has more spellings than its worth, sometimes as many letters as the name Sue.

Twins personify it. Grammar students abhor it. It’s a word used all the time by you.

It’s two.

Ode to Oli

I blinked, and you’re nearly three months.

It’s been longer though. I’ve cradled and held you for nearly a year. In that time, I’ve determined that I like you very much, love you even more.

You gave me a scare when you cried and fussed so much for several weeks. I thought I couldn’t handle your little heart. And before, on that April night of your birth, you pushed me the edge of myself, pushed me beyond my capacity. But that’s what it is to be a parent – to shatter the ceiling on one’s capacity for strength, for sanity, for love. Parenthood is expansion.

You went through a phase where you whimpered before you cried. Your lower lip would slowly emerge and surround your upper lip. They shivered in sadness. Your pout broke my heart.

After weeks of screams and stubbornness, you became serene. You’re solid and steadfast. You smile just at the sight of me, at the sight of your brother, at the sight of your father. You’re sociable and sweet.

You have kind, kind, joy-filled eyes. I think you tell good stories when you coo. I think you’ll heal souls with stories.

Your eyes dance with joy, but you talk with your eyebrows. They’re rounded and high when you’re excited. Your feet kick and your mouth makes an “O”. But when Bronson is jumping up and down and screeching on the couch next to you, you furrow your brow and bob your unsteady head, so you can look at him. You scrunch your forehead, and then look back at me, bobblehead style, and your eyebrows say, “My brother is crazy.”

I can’t wait for the fun you’ll have together. You’ll both be crazy. You’ll know by my eyebrows.

Life looks good on you.

Fat rolls do, too.

Yea! Yea! Yea!

After the splashing of two tubbies, after the zipping of two footy pajamas, after the last drinks before bed, I heard cheers coming from behind Bronson’s door.

At first I shook my head and sighed. What in the world was he doing now? But after a moment, I remembered. He was recounting the Bible story of the evening prior. I read him the story of Jesus rising from the dead. I made a surprise face and told him Jesus came back to life, and then I cheered, telling him his friends were happy to see him (which is partially true).

And he remembered. So as I held his little brother, trying to rock him to rest, Bronson held his own worship service, yelping out “Yea! Yea! Yea!” Jesus is alive.

This was just moments after our prayer before bed. He listed off people and things he wanted to pray about, and then I prayed. I prayed quickly, trying to rush off to aide his crying brother, but as I left the room I heard Bronson whispering his prayers. Dada, Mama, Baby, Mimi, BapBap, ball… Then repeat. Sometimes he throws random things into the list by pointing around the room. One night it was the door stop. At the dinner table, a spoon.

So as I rocked Oliver to sleep, my eyes welled up with tears. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such a pure prayer meeting. As I drift off to sleep tonight, I can only hope to have a faith that mirrors my son’s.

Yea! Yea! Yea! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Woman Behind the Mom

Yesterday, I sat on the deck and put my feet up, book in hand. I had a snack and some water and put on my sunglasses. I was like a teenager on summer break.

For three minutes.

That was the total amount of time that my two sons slept in synch, and that three minutes was so luxurious that I really believed I was going to read a book.

But Oliver cried, so I went back to reality, the reality that my summer breaks are long gone, the reality that my life is completely accounted for, completely enveloped in responsibility. I picked up Oliver and rocked him.

People ask me what I do all day. As a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve often responded casually, shrugging my sholders like I have no idea how I spend my time. Sometimes I feel defensive, but I still leave it be, letting people think what they may.

With the newest addition, I feel particularly stretched. I’ve never tried to fit so much into my days. Right now, I average five poopy diapers a day and many more wet ones. I do loads and loads of laundry. I push papers for the small business that is our family. I go to the doctors. I cook and clean when I can. I read kids books and talk in a high baby voice. I throw a ball. And yes, I check Facebook and email and Twitter. On good days, I stay in touch with old friends. On better days, I find the time to read a few pages from a book off my shelf or write on here or work on my book.

Afterall, I am a stay-at-home mom, and I am myself – a writer, a photographer, a friend, an individual person with my own identity.

I’ve decided all these things are compatable. Of course, these aren’t the days to be selfish. My kids demand a lot from me and deserve every ounce I can give them. But, hopefully, my being me will bless them. Afterall, they are two sons born to a woman who was someone before they came along.

I’d hate for them to never get to know me.