When the tree falls…does it make a sound?
I assure you, it does make a sound. And it sounds a whole lot like bones breaking, branches snapping, and voices wailing.
At least that’s how it sounded to me, anyway, after my 5-year old fell out of a tree, broke her femur and wrist, went into surgery, and made the world stop for a day.
The intensity of this experience was so rank it leaked out my armpits. Seriously. When she fell out, I had on scrubby old clothes, no deodorant, and NO time to shower (obviously), but she needed me anyway. So I went.
And that’s how it goes, right? When tragedy strikes, we’re rarely prepared for it. That’s because we don’t ever think it will actually happen to us OR our kids! And up until this point, I was even the mom saying, “These are the days of their lives,” as if breaking bones and breaking hearts was just another day at Seattle Grace … and then my daughter went and broke her body and changed everything.
Because when the tree falls…we hurt too!!
It’s a cruel fact of life, this hurting along with your child, because I’m fairly certain that childbirth should be enough…but it’s not. We hover and shelter and protect them, thinking this will help, but it doesn’t; because how can you really protect something that’s not fully yours?! You can’t. (And last time I checked, our hearts are supposed to sit INSIDE our chests — not walk around outside of our bodies — so what was God thinking when he gave us kids to protect??!).
It’s simple, though, really: this relinquishment with our kids mirrors how God parents us.
He doesn’t bulldoze us over with opinions or put us in a Bubble Boy Suit and proclaim that we’ll never get hurt. No. He lovingly guides us along and gives US the chance to make our own decisions. He never promises that we’ll have perfect lives either, but he does promise that he’ll work out all things for those who love him (Romans 8:28).
And isn’t that how we’re supposed to parent, too?
Because while it might make ME feel better to helicopter around my kids (especially the one who likes to give me a heart attack), that’s not really teaching any of them how to live. My job as a parent, then, is to help them anticipate the fall while also teaching them how to respond after they fall. Because that part is inevitable.
So when the tree falls…what happens next?
You call on your friends. (Like how I did that?).
There is nothing more humbling and beautiful than watching your tribe rise up and help you when you need it most.
After my daughter had surgery, so many people came to help us! They brought us food; they brought us toys and games and kinetic sand that entertained ALL OF MY KIDS FOR HOURS! They came to the hospital, just so I could eat and take a shower! And they prayed. Oh how they prayed!
THIS is how you survive a tragedy, people. Because while it’s true, God did do a mighty work in my daughter and healed her miraculously fast (she was up walking again 3 weeks post-surgery!), the real story for me is how he showed up — in grace, love, and mercy — through other people. THAT’S what I want my kids to remember. Not the pain, not the tears, not the fear. But what came afterward.
So while I’d love to sit here and say that I wished this had never happened (okay, I do wish it had never happened), the fact of the matter is, it DID happen. And there’s nothing I can do about that. I can’t live in fear, wondering when or IF she’ll fall out of a tree again; I can’t obsess over the “should-haves” or the “what-ifs”, and I can’t keep my kids tucked away like little nesting dolls.
So when the tree falls…how do we move on?
Simple. We let them get back up again and find another tree to climb. (Scary, I know, but you CAN do this when you have your friends and faith surrounding you.)
Because when they DO start climbing again (and it is paramount that you let them try), your kids will find out how strong and resilient they are; they’ll discover how confident they are in failure because they’ll know that they’re supported; AND they’ll learn that their bones will grow back stronger next time! (How cool is that?! The same is true for us in life too, regardless of where we are “broken”.)
So have faith, my friends. Put all of your faith and hope in believing that God’s “got this” — that he’s got your kids AND he’s got you. That way, you can worry less and encourage them more … even when the tree falls.