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  • Katie Smith


Ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Ever banged your head against the wall over and over not knowing why? Ever hit a dead end only to travel the opposite direction and hit another dead end?

Getting "stuck" is part of life. Stuck in a physical rut, a mental rut, a spiritual rut, a relational rut. We all get stuck. Sometimes we can get ourselves unstuck, and sometimes we need help.

I could never have imagined loving a small, non-verbal infant the first moment I met him. A love so real, so deep, that nothing could add to it or take away from it.

But time tells a different story.

I could never have imagined a decade later having moments when that same little human could be so incredibly difficult to love. A frustration so real, so palatable that it never lets up--stuck in solidifying cement--nothing to pull you up or push you down. Just stuck.

I recently found an audio book, Raising Emotionally Strong Boys, by David Thomas, which places a fitting finger on this plight. When emotions are high, discussion or discipline should be very low on your "to do" list. Yet I find myself wanting to nip problems to avoid misunderstandings, so I force the conversation, or I squelch it with consequences, thus creating a disconnect anyway.

My learning curve with angry "Hulk" humans is no different than their learning curve in controlling their inner Hulk. As Thomas explains, doing the work to actually recognize and regulate emotions is just that--work. Most little boys (or girls for that matter) don't want to work. They want to play, have fun, and do what comes easily. Expressing murmurs of "I'm fine," or sighing, or screaming, or even walking away is always easier than digging deep into feelings.

As I began to recognize and respond myself rather than react to the hulks in front of me, many less humans were hurt in the process. Having someone who is more experienced and can shed light in new seasons is essential to getting unstuck. I feel sorry for the first-ever mom. Eve had no mentors, books, or counselors as she raised the first two brothers on earth. And we all know how poorly that went.

Parenting an early-developing, pre-pubescent male is not much different from an emotional, adolescent female or an adult who was never taught how to regulate emotions. The feelings are real, but the reality is turned upside down. Fits of rage emerge at random like a dark clouds over the open ocean.

Nothing and no one can predict or prepare you for the path of such a storm, but you can choose to ride it out with grace and help from more seasoned veterans. Then, you'll appreciate the effort you put into your own regulation.

God's grace is sufficient to help us in our stuck moments. Then, those sweet humans will become visible again (no matter how old your Hulk actually is). Helpless and hopeful, you'll love them purely and simply because love covers a multitude of sins.

~Stuck Carefully and Carelessly

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