What would happen if someone slapped your wife? Your daughter? Think about that. How does one react to that? I was taught to protect and defend the honor of women, and that it was my particular duty to defend those close to me – wife, daughter, mother, sister. It seems a sound principle.
Then one day a three year old did just that. And all of what I had learned came to the front. My blood boiled faster than I thought was possible. I know exactly what I would have done to a grown man for that. But, this guy is three. There was a war raging in me. I had no idea how unprepared I was for this moment. I had to leave the room. To make my emotional unpreparedness worse, walking away carried with it a great deal of guilt also. It felt like walking out on my duty as a husband, father, and man.
Now, my wife is a tough girl. She could handle it. Also, he was three. It’s not like restraining him required my brute strength. While it just felt like something that fell in my realm of responsibilities, that was not a faucet I thought i could turn on to just a trickle. No, I had to separate myself every time.
Unfortunately, this little dude came from a violent background. It was all he knew. And this became an ongoing issue. He would get upset, take a swing, and I would immediately have to leave the room and let my wife deal with this outburst. I really couldn’t work out a way to safely intervene.
One day, as I was leaving work, I called home to chat with my wife when she informed me that she had just sent this dude to bed for hitting her. It is about a twenty minute drive home. That’s twenty minutes for my blood to boil and then for me to cool off. So, by the time I had made it home, I was calm enough to step in. So, I walked in, and past the dinner table without a word to anyone, and straight to his room.
I had no plan. No rehearsed words. But, I had to do something. I was becoming desperate for resolution. I remember asking God what I was supposed to say to a three year old in this situation. But, I felt ill equipped. I sat down on his bed beside him. He was visibly tense with fear. So, I decided I would just be honest with him. “I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do. How do I protect my wife and daughter, whom I love dearly, from you and protect you, whom I love dearly, from me?” I let that settle for a moment, then put my hand on his head and said, “I love you, Son.” I got up and left his room.
He hasn’t swung at her since. He’s been upset enough to. But, he just hasn’t. I sincerely believe that was the first time he had ever seen anyone express a desire to protect him in a way he could understand. It’s terribly unfortunate, but these guys – foster children – are mature in ways that they shouldn’t be. They have seen things that they never should have. Some of them are having to process things that most adults never have to process. And for him, his base need of feeling safe and protected had finally been met. He no longer had to protect himself. That part of him, at least could be a kid again.