My son was bruised from head to toe. It was horrifying to look at. I did not want to touch him for fear of hurting him. He said his bruises didn’t really hurt, but I couldn’t imagine how that could be true. He looked awful and not at all the way he’d looked when I’d put him to bed the night before! How had this happened again?
I wanted to cry.
I felt I couldn’t handle one more thing, and this poor baby needed me to handle a lot with the reassurance and comfort only a mom can give.
There are few things scarier than having a child face some strange, horrible, undefinable illness.
Only facing it alone could make it worse.
Only facing it alone and having it look like your sweet, innocent child was not sick, but beaten could make it even worse.
I know that firsthand.
My boy was in third grade when the rashes started from the top of his sock line to the bottom of his shorts line. At first, I didn’t think much of it. My boys were active and often retrieving wiffle balls and chasing things in the woods behind our house. I figured he’d caught some weird type of poison ivy or something. He didn’t seem too uncomfortable, and with all the other trauma we were dealing with, I honestly didn’t have the bandwith to recognize this as more of a problem than a simple rash.
Then the bruising started.
I don’t mean a small light discoloration here and there. I mean deep purple bruising covered much of his body. My poor middle guy looked like he’d been severely beaten.
And then the pain and swelling started.
I imagined what people would say. They knew I was overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed. Would people whisper more than they already did? Would they think I had done this to my precious son?
It didn’t matter. He needed help, and I was the only one who could get it for him. I called the doctor and made an appointment for later that afternoon.
But by appointment time, his bruises were gone.
Completely. Vanished. Invisible.
Like they had never been there at all.
There was no sign of anything wrong with my son.
The doctor shook his head and sent us home.
I hoped the bruising was a freak instance and everything really was okay.
For a few days, my son came home from school exhausted with slight discolorations in odd places, but the severe bruising seemed to be gone. The doctor said he was okay, and I didn’t know what else to do.
I held onto the hope that this too would pass as the doctor had said.
Then one morning, the severe bruising was back.
I called and made another appointment again taking the first available. A different doctor saw us. He checked my boy’s skin. Other than a few bruises one would expect any active third grade boy to sport, his skin was flawless.
I’m sure the doctor thought I was being dramatic.
He didn’t seem to understand that I was a single mom of five boys and it takes a LOT to rattle me.
We went back home.
I didn’t know what to do. I was certain the doctors didn’t believe me. I prayed it was a just a weird and passing thing, and my son would be as good tomorrow morning as he appeared most afternoons.
But the next day he was worse than ever.
The bruising was deep black and purple and covered half his face, his back, even his ear lobe was bruised badly.
And I was alone to decide what to do.
Did I take him back to the same doctor’s office? Would they accuse me of child abuse? Were they missing something terrible? Should I take him somewhere else? What should I do? Should I wait and see if they go away again?
I held my scared and hurting little boy and knew. I was not going to call the doctor. I was not going to wait for an appointment. I was not going to have these horrible bruises disappear again before a doctor saw them.
I was going to take him to see his actual doctor immediately. I would force him to see his bruises. I would not leave until I got answers and help.
How to Make a Good Decision
In the above scenario, I was worried about the consequences of not taking my son to the doctor but also of taking my son to the doctor.
I knew what people said about single mothers. I knew I was under stress and would also be under suspicion. I was afraid people would judge me and wondered how I would defend myself so I didn’t lose my children.
I knew I had choices. We always have choices.
I could choose to ignore reality and hope the bruising faded again. I could choose to ignore what was happening with my son in the hopes of avoiding the judgment I was afraid I would receive, but just because we have choices doesn’t mean we should take them.
This decision was not about me. I had to protect my son!
My other option was to take my son to the doctor.
Because I knew who I was and how precious he was, the decision was easy.
Even if it meant that I would be judged or that people might think I had beaten my child, I knew the right thing to do was to take him to the doctor.
If you haven’t been in this situation, I understand why you would question my squeamishness about taking a severely bruised child to the doctor, yet, when you are in a volatile divorce the fear of losing your children is very real.
I had zero faith in our court systems. It does not have the best interest of children or innocent spouses at heart. Our court systems have no heart.
I was afraid that, by taking my child to the doctor, I would lose my children. My fear was real. I have met women who have been investigated for far less.
Still, there was no hesitation in taking him. I was his mother, and his little life depended on my putting myself aside and doing the right thing for him. That took the weight out of my decision.
Even in Temptation Jesus, Does the Right Thing
In this Sunday’s gospel, we see Jesus tempted by Satan in the desert. He is offered food when he is hungry. The power of God’s Love for Him was tested. He was offered all the riches of the world.
Our Lord turns down each of these without a second thought. Despite His pain and suffering and the far greater pain and suffering He would go through, there is no hesitation.
He did not plead with Satan. He did not explain His point of view. He did not weigh pros and cons.
He simply drew from his knowledge, spoke one sentence, and chose to do what was right. He trusted His Father with the outcome. He knew whatever harm resulted in this world would be nothing compared to the glory of the next.
He didn’t just understand the value of sacrifice, He understood its necessity and its power in making us who we are created to be.
Jesus, in those 40 days was tempted by what we would consider to be life and death decisions. He seemed to have chosen death, yet it is those very decisions that helped lead Him to our life everlasting.
It is His commitment to doing the right thing, even when it is difficult, that saves the world!
The Paradox of Decision Making
As single parents, we often struggle with decision making. It seems as if we bear the weight of the world on our shoulders. In some ways we do.
Our innocent little families are our world.
With no one to turn to, with others judging, criticizing, and condemning every move, even the smallest decisions can seem overwhelming.
The paradox of decision making is that when we know who we are and who we serve, doing what is right isn’t that hard at all. Consequences may be difficult, but decisions are often easy.
Jesus made the right decision even though it was a painful one. He knew who He was. He knew His reasons for believing as He did. He had the ability to articulate Truth.
The consequences of His decision were still hard to handle. He was still hungry. His self-worth had still been targeted. He was still poor.
But He did not share the additional weight of postponed decision making or wondering if He had made the right choice. He knew!
The Real Reason Single Parents Experience Decision Fatigue
Making decisions alone is challenging. This is especially true when the consequences are so dire or affect those we love.
But I don’t think it is the decision making itself that usually causes our conflict.
It is that we forget, or do not know, who we are.
When I knew my job as mom was to find someone to care for my son any concern for myself was pushed aside. That’s when I knew I would not be made to feel inadequate, dramatic, or “less than.”
My son needed me. I was his mom. I would not leave without answers.
Not surprisingly, when I acted as my Christ sanctioned identity mandated, my faithfulness to who I am and who my son was paid off and we got help!
I walked into the doctor’s office and told them I was there for an appointment I had not yet made and that I would not be leaving until I saw our pediatrician.
Fortunately, he was in the office that day. He knew me. He knew my boys. He knew our family history and the trauma we had endured. He knew I was not a hysterical mother.
What’s more, he knew the bruising because his son had experienced a less intense version of the same thing not long before! There is no such thing as coincidence!
My little boy was then diagnosed with HSP, Heinoch Shonlein Papura (spelling?), and immediately admitted to the hospital. His kidneys and other areas of his body were affected, and his poor little body did not have the energy to fight gravity. The bruising was caused by blood pooling within him.
He recovered well but we would continue to fight HSP for the next two years. The doctor explained that most cases are not as severe or long lasting as what my son experienced, but stress has a huge impact on the body. My little boy exhibited some of that stress through the severity and length of his illness.
Big and Little Decisions
I thank God for helping me know who I was and the strength to cast aside all thoughts that might have tempted me to act in fear of punishment rather than in hope of healing.
Parents who do not know who they are or have not written down their core values and long term goals are more likely to make poor decisions and to become stressed about the decision making process even when they make the right ones.
When we make decisions out of fear, ignorance, or worry, we sometimes make idols of ourselves or our comfort or our worry. No decision we make has the power to out perform God’s ability to work it for good.
To lessen decision fatigue, know thyself. Determine who you are and who you want to be. Write your core values and personal creed.
Weigh big decisions against these and trust the results to your Father. Learn to play with little decisions and have fun with them again. Parents who get stressed out over pizza or Chinese food, brown or black shoes, and soccer or basketball need to relinquish control. Pray for detachment and a resurgence of fun.
Choose to be silly in little decisions. Do not sweat the small stuff. Do not over complicate things. Do not make each decision more important than it is!
We are made in the image and likeness of God, and I often think of Him creating the world. I am sure He did not stress over whether to make an animal with two legs or four or even six and eight. He played and used His decision making to enhance His creation. Decide to see your decisions in the same way.
Navy SEAL Jocko Willink says that of ten options, we can generally eliminate one or two bad possibilities. It is the remaining good ones that paralyze us.
Commit to movement and forward progress. Make a decision, weigh the consequences, and make adjustments. Either continue forward progress or adjust your compass and decide differently.
Life is like that. It is a dance with constant movement and adjustment to the tempo offered us. As long as you do nothing to violate your core beliefs, you have no reason to stress although it is human to do so at times. God is in control and can make beauty from ashes.
Trust Him and yourself.
Make your decision. Then call on your inner child’s curiosity to see where God takes it!
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