Never Once

 

Bombed outFrom March 2008 to May 2009 I spent 15 months in Iraq as a soldier.

In that time, I never once was threatened by a roadside bomb.  I never once had to dive for cover.  I never once had to dodge a bullet.   I never once really felt like I might die.  And when I came back, I enjoyed 2 incredibly sweet years with my wife as I started a new job and a new life.  What I never expected was that after 2 years of peace after leaving an actual war zone, I would enter into a different war zone.  My battlefield is my house.  My dinner table.  My car.  My bedroom.  My children’s bedroom.

Today I live in a battle.  I have almost died or been crippled and seen those I love suffer the same more times than I have kept track of…at least so it seems.  I’ve fought to the place of nearly complete hopelessness more than once.

My current mission guarantees that I and those I love will be in harms way.  I cannot complete my mission from an air-conditioned trailer halfway around the world.  I am not somewhere in the rear echelon or enjoying the comforts of a highly secured command post.  For the first time in my life, at least that I recognize, I am fighting for my life and the lives of those I love.  That seems ironic to me.

You see, I walked out of Iraq without a scratch.  I never once felt pushed to the brink.  I cannot say the same about being a parent for almost 2 years now.

It might sound funny but I assure you, it’s not.  I‘ve been entrusted with the care of precious cargo.

Some part of me knew the old cliché: “no one is ever ready to be a parent.”  And I heard parents say that in some seasons, “every day is a battle” and I would kind of laugh, you know?  No one ever said it this way but I always thought that they were sort of blaming their children in some way.  That, I felt like I could prepare for: a threat from the outside.

Never once did I consider that the battle would be inside me.

When you go to war, there is a simplicity in knowing who your enemy is going in.  You analyze your foe and you devise a strategy to defeat them by exploiting their weaknesses while capitalizing on your strengths.  Seems straightforward, I know.

But what happens when before going into battle, you have completely misidentified the greatest threat?  This is the situation I find myself in.  

As an old comic once said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

I completely underestimated my capacity for selfishness.  I completely underestimated how much I seek unhealthy control of things.  I completely underestimated my capacity for fits of rage.  I completely underestimated my ability to justify harsh treatment those I love.  I underestimated the enemy and the enemy can be awful.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

This realization has been crippling at times and just when I think I’m gaining ground, the enemy attacks and seems to negate any progress that seems to have been made.

When my sons cry out to me, will a loving father greet them or will the enemy strike?

And it happens again.  The enemy attacks with that bitter voice:

“Stop whining!”

“Be quiet!”

“STOP IT!”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!”

Oh, God… not again.  There’s shrapnel everywhere.  The words hang in the air like smoke.  They linger like a foul burnt smell.  It’s repulsive.  What a mess…and how do you begin to clean up?  Worse still, there’s no sign of it not happening again.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

Questions race through my head.  Who am I?  What sort of man am I?  Why don’t I treat my children the way I want to treat them in my mind?  Why don’t I treat them with gentleness and patience?  Am I a loving father or am I an enemy of my own household?

These days, the answer depends on what day you ask or even what part of the day you ask.

My name is James Arthur and we joke about James being the jerk and Arthur being the voice of reason.  It can almost sound cute in those terms and I can say it with a bit of a smile.  The reality some days feels more like: James is a monster and Arthur is freaking gone – he’s nowhere to be found…again.

So, I get stuck in this perverted cycle of self-righteousness and self-loathing.

I am good.

I am right.

I should be better.

They need me to be better.

Why am I not better yet?

How can I keep doing the same stupid things over and over again?

I am a phony.

I am a hypocrite.

I am hanging on by a thread…again.

The rub is James and Arthur are not two people…but one.  I am James Arthur Jardin and I am at war with myself.  I am at the same time the one who needs to be victorious and the one who needs to be defeated.

I guess victory is successfully raising my boys so that they know and believe that their father loves them.  And if that is victory then defeat is if they believe that their dad should be avoided or that he does not want them or does not have time for them.

God help me.  Save me from myself.  Save my children from me.  I hope they will never once think that their dad doesn’t love them. 

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About JJardin

Jesus, family, friends, music, food, movies, video games...yep, that about covers it.
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2 Responses to Never Once

  1. I identify with every word of this, (minus the part about going to Iraq) I am the enemy. He is me. The only hope I can offer, even as I cried real broken parenting tears just this evening, is that Christ lives in us. We have Him as our helper, as our strength and overcommer. Yes, we will keep fighting, we’ll screw up big and small and we’ll miss the mark more days than we’d care to count, but God’s grace is made PERFECT in our weakness–and don’t you know I’m clinging to that tonight like my life depends on it,… well, because it does. So much love for you, James Arthur. You’re a good father. I know this–I’m certain of it. Christ lives in you. Praying prayers for us both as we stumble through. God holds our hands, and he catches these tears. He counts them all. Nothing is wasted.

    • hallsofgreen says:

      Thanks for your encouragement sis. If anything, I hope to identify some comrades in the trenches with this post. If we are suffering, we might as well walk through it with people who can encourage us and not only empathize but sympathize too. Love you Kris!

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