Friday, April 20, 2012

When Real Relationship Is a Battle

I live in a house full of real relationships. I'm convinced that raising boys is not any more or less difficult than raising girls, it's just unique unto itself. Boys are hardwired to prove their prowess. Everything from how fast they eat to how loud they burp is part of the contest to be king of the hill. As boys living together tussle and fight to assert their dominance, they don't react to being pushed aside and passed up with hurtful tears and squeals, they get MAD!!! They yell and call names and push and punch. Boys are fighters!

Most days in our house, it seems like a losing battle - teaching these boys how to fight well. Instead of teaching clear communication, admitting fault, and forgiveness, it seems like they are only getting better at insults and irritating one another. What I want most for them is for them to be devoted brothers for life, there for each other through all of the harder things life will bring to them. What I see are mounting offenses and grudges. ... I sigh ... What is the point?

Today is my birthday and this is what my sister posted on my Facebook wall:

‎45 years ago my sister was born. This is what I got- *traded shiny nickels for dirty dimes*rubber spiders in my bed, shoes, drawers,etc.*fightin' with windmill arms and hair pullin*pickle juice in a squirtgun*A nickname only she can call me*the part of Toto while she was always Dorothy*an impossible childhood standard because she was the good one and I was a brat
I also got this:*3 beautiful nephews*an automatic best friend*a wonderful Christian counselor*laughter and humor when I'm crying*parenting advice*self worth when I feel horrible*an impossible standard for Christian motherhood because she is so wonderful at it and I often flounder
My sister means the world to me. I wish all sisters could've had the childhood we did growing up. She is gracious, funny, beautiful, loving, generous, and the daughter of a King! Thank you, Lis, for always being there when I think my world is falling apart. You never let on how yours is. Your example ripples through my life, invests itself into Alex's, and brings unconditional love to Jerry. I miss you!
And you're still older than me!!!

When I talk about how boys live together and conflict with one another I really do understand that it is not an issue of better or worse than living with or raising girls. It's just different. When my sister and I were little we were close friends. We pretended together, played with Barbie dolls, rode bicycles, and cared for each other when we were hurt. We got angry and had cat fights, and immediately afterwards helped each other cover the scratches and red marks so we wouldn't get into trouble. 

Things changed when we became teenagers. I went through a strange period of distancing myself from my family, choosing people I wanted to impress over the people who loved me most and unconditionally. They were all very gracious and loved me and stayed as involved in my life as I'd let them under the circumstances. I'm grateful for that, because my family was more connected during those awkward years than most. But I think often my baby sister got lost in the shuffle.

Then she began to struggle with problems of her own. Some were of her own making - the result of her choices - but many were not. Many were inherited in the frail, sin-ravaged body, at a time when dealing with illnesses that affected your thinking and behavior was still relatively unexplored territory. She suffered. We suffered with her. And people looked on with attitudes ranging from judgement to pity to contempt. Our relationship unraveled as she looked like the rebel and I looked like Miss Goody-Two-Shoes.

These problems continued well into our adult years. With my mother's heavenly homegoing, I assumed more of a mother-role in her life, which was a lot of pressure because I was a new mother, and had yet to understand that kind of sacrificial, committed-no-matter-what kind of love. And she baffled me. The "right" choice seemed so clear to me, yet she so often chose what didn't make sense. And did things that didn't make sense. But I loved her, and my daddy loved her, and I really wanted her to be healthy and happy, so I kept answering the phone and talking to her, even when I felt like my words were just not enough. When my daddy died, we were all the other one had. We were orphaned adults, clinging to each other for connection through a past we shared, and trying to help one another stay afloat in a sea of grief.

Things are very different now. God has done amazing things in my sister's life: accurate medical treatment, a supporting and encouraging boyfriend, drawing her back again and again to Himself. She faced a serious trial several months ago, and to my astonishment all I wanted to do was fly up to be by her side, hold her hand, and cry with her through it. I love her and miss her and still want what's best for her. 

I realized as I read her post today, that my love for her and pride in how far she has come has been knit into my heart by sticking it out. Over and over I have chosen relationship: messy, painful, hard, intentional ... over running away or shutting her out. And the reward of that perseverance? A best friend ... the testimony of how much God can change someone ... more relationship with so much less effort! 

When my boys fight ... insult each other ... offend each other ... hurt one another ... I wonder .... Will they learn to stick with it? Will they still call each other ... hang out ... enjoy one another's families in the years to come? I hope so. Because I hate to think what they would be missing!

1 comment:

Court said...

I think you're doing a great job with them and your sisters encouragement is testimony of that.