This past Sunday, Timm departed for Africa. He works for a missions organization called Empower One. He typically travels to South Sudan, but due to the violent civil war ensuing in that country, he instead is visiting Uganda where the refugee camps, full of the South Sudanese people who have had to flee their homes, are located.
Traveling to visit and teach in the North East Africa Theological Seminary is part of what Timm does for his job. I love his heart for the country, and his desire to pour into the people there for the sake of furthering the gospel. I am fully supportive of his travel, and have been for the ten years he has been taking these trips.
However, that does not make the process any easier.
Something happens in the emotional fiber of our children when Timm is gone. They fray and fragment, losing ability to function or interact well with change or unmet expectations. They cry (or pout) like it’s going out of style. We have had numerous conversations over the past three days about healthy coping mechanisms for how we behave when we feel sad. It’s not working.
Two nights ago, we had multiple crocodile tear meltdowns because I decided to shift Sloppy Joe Night forward one evening in the weekly menu lineup. Then, after dinner, one of my more particularly emotive children told me in a very well-worded statement how unreasonable my expectations were for her because, when I asked her to tidy up the bathroom floor, I wasn’t specific enough to include listing the individual items strewn on the floor that I wanted her to remove. She was weeping uncontrollably as she delivered this monologue.
The sibling bickering escalates and turns intolerable. Our generally friendly, amiable, pleasant children seem to look for opportunities to fight over anything. It’s like everyone needs to mark their territory. “Hey guys, would someone please feed and water the dog?” Usually, someone just gives the dog food and water. Not this week. We spent fifteen minutes arguing and resolving conflict and setting boundaries and using our words and apologizing and asking forgiveness and reviewing the rules of human decency. Meanwhile, the dog just needs food and water.
Speaking of the dog, Henry paces nonstop. He’s unsettled, and unsure of what dangerous unseen enemy has stolen the alpha male of our home. He’s a pack animal without a leader, and he gets nervous. Henry spends the entirety of Timm’s absence barking more than the usual obscene amount and sniffing out predators in places like the trash, the kids’ closets, or the garage.
So how am I dealing with it?
Let’s see. Last night for dinner I ate a sugar cookie and a La Croix, because it’s important to hydrate when you’re under stress. I stopped caring about the amount of screen time my children spend this week because it is literally one hundred and five degrees outside, and I work full-time, and I am doing the best I can. I try to redeem this decision by requiring them to play Just Dance on a daily basis (because it technically counts as an aerobic activity?) and introducing them to the original Anne of Green Gables mini-series (because I file it under the category of “classical children’s literature adaptations” which sounds very educational). I make sure everyone brushes their teeth and hair most days, that they eat three somewhat normal meals, and that they go to bed close to normal time. But other than those very base requirements, we all sort of hold on and hope time flies more quickly than usual.
I lean heavily on my staff. I try to minimize the amount of commitments I make. I make as many things as easy as possible. And I go to bed so very, very early because navigating this emotional hurricane wears me the flip out.
Africa, you’re not easy. But I will survive you, knowing that in six days, with Timm’s arrival, all will return to its rightful economy in our home and we can all begin again to deal with life in normal, healthy, less-emotive ways.