oreos + doing the best we can


He asked for two Oreos.

I knew better, but in a cowardly Hail Mary, I reached into the half eaten package and pulled them out. Internally wincing, I said a silent prayer. Crumbs fell to the floor as I placed them in his hands. The others each got two. Two by two by two by two by two, I held my breath, hoping just this once, things could be “normal.”

They weren’t. Or maybe they were. It’s been so long since our days were strung together with something other than fits of rage and gusts of feelings too big for his growing frame. His once chubby arms now nearly overpower mine. This is the moment in time every mother of a dysregulated child dreads. It is the moment when therapists start to talk about “making plans” for keeping everyone safe. The bone-crushing downside to these plans is there is no felt safety for the one who lacks it most.

{This is the kind of thing sensible people don’t write on the internet.
This is the kind of thing I don’t know how to process otherwise.}


When I was a little girl I would pick scabs off my wounds. I knew better and I winced as the newly formed skin broke loose from the flesh beneath and blood ran down my leg. Being laid bare before the sun and moon and stars exposes what civil people suggest we keep behind close doors. But maybe there is something cathartic about getting our insides out into the open air.

I think this is the inner turmoil of everyone who embraces both their creativity and their humanity; which is to say they embrace who they were made to be.


I gave him two Oreos and it is nights like this one that end in fits of rage over things like making a bed or using walking feet. (instead of running ones) For the sake of the other kids we have taken to carrying the raging child out to our mini-van for a ride. Secondary trauma always lingers around the corner.

I think all parents second guess their every move, but there is a unique questioning that comes when you are parenting a child who has previously been parented by someone else and the wounds left by that someone else are so primal and so deep that they have now wounded your own soul and the souls of everyone in your household. There is a heavy weight, a special kind of guilt, the enemy seeks to heap on our souls. 

We become convinced we’re just screwing them all up.

Once in the van I put our blue Honda Odyssey into reverse and begin praying for Jesus to take the literal and figurative wheel. We have three radio stations programmed: NPR, Christian radio and 80’s. Since more talking would only serve to split my brain right down the middle and I’m not a fan of 80’s music, I opt for Christian radio. It is horrible. Occasionally there is a Lauren Daigle song and I know God loves me, but mostly it’s just really bad.

We drive under rows and rows of banyan trees as I fumble prayers, occasionally singing along because I don’t know why. The trees are magnificent and calming.

In my head I prepare a script of what I would say to a police officer who wants to know more about our situation. I check to make sure I have my wallet with extra business cards for the psychiatrist and pray that, should I need to prove the invisible special needs that have vomited us out into the night, the doctor will pick up his cell phone and verify my words.

Eventually the screaming stops. Words begin to form. I turn down the radio. We discuss a plan. There is more screaming. He is not ready. I turn the radio back up. We ride this cycle round and round like a scrambler at the state fair. It is jarring and unpleasant and everything in me screams GET OFF THE RIDE.

At some point later we try again. This time he is ready. We come up with a plan for what will happen when we reenter the house. He will use words. He will complete tasks. He will take his medicine. He will go to bed.

Sometimes we get inside and the plan falls apart. Sometimes we repeat our drive a few times. But usually the plan works. He crawls into bed and I sit at the end, both of us exhausted in every way. A really bad Christian radio song runs through my mind and I realize, most of us are just doing the best we can. 



  1. Meg R. January 14, 2017

    Thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share. There is such beauty and freedom in our willingness to share our hard and hurting places. Praying for your family. You are showing your family that we are to take the Bible literally…that when God says “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, He means it. Love is truly love when we are loving others in their unlovable times (think I got that from ann voskamp). Basically, if I were your kid from hard places, how would I want to be treated? I’d want a mom like you. Someone who shows up and doesn’t give up by the grace of God.That my friend is a huge part of the gospel and you are living it out for your family to see. While so many others are building up walls and trying to figure out how to make bigger bubbles for their kids (talking to myself here), you’re showing that we are in a spiritual battle and the only way to live this life is sold out for the things that matter…things that are eternal…people. Love this so much.

  2. Melanie Kaye Avila January 15, 2017

    Cheers to doing the best we can friend. And cheers to oreos (especially when they are dunked in milk).

  3. Jen Knopp January 15, 2017

    Thank you. The guilt of messing us all up runs so deep in me these days. I tried to explain the idea of secondary trauma, although I honestly believe it is just plain trauma, to a family member the other day, and she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. It helps to know we’re not alone.


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