Sometimes you have a painful experience that leaves a physical scar—maybe not on you, but a scar just the same. And later, when you see that scar, it makes you smile instead of feeling the sadness that you felt at the time.
My middle child struggles with a list of psychological labels and diagnoses. While he has come a long way in controlling his outward explosive behaviors over the last 15 years, now and then, they still occur.
Recently he felt pressured and provoked, and he reacted violently. He ran out of the room, hitting and kicking and yelling as he went. I remember thinking that the banging of his fists didn’t last as long as I expected. The sudden quiet was a nice surprise to us all.
We soon found out the reason.
Right in a prominent spot in the hallway was a hole through the sheetrock and a pile of sheetrock dust on the floor. He had punched a hole in the wall. When he saw what he had done, he fell immediately into a deep remorse.
While a teenager punching a hole in a wall isn’t anything newsworthy or very unusual, it shook my son up. He was so sorry for his behavior and how it had now affected his family.
Not much was said about the hole in the wall. My husband and my son had a quiet conversation about it. But otherwise, nothing was immediately said.
A little bit later, my oldest son walked into the hallway and saw the damage his brother had done. His first reaction was shock. He wanted to know what happened. He couldn’t believe it. But then he snapped into action. He went to his room and grabbed a picture from his wall to see how it might cover the hole. Not satisfied, he went back for a different decoration to hang over the hole.
A minute later, I heard hammering in the hallway. When I walked by, I saw that the hole was covered up by a decorative sign from my oldest son’s room. The hole was hidden. The anger and the rage were covered. Any shame associated with the hole in the wall was covered and gone.
I didn’t cry about the hole in the wall. But I cried when my oldest son covered it up. It was such an act of love. He saw the destruction and recognized the sadness and hurt that it caused. He wanted to fix it. He needed to protect his brother and help his family.
His first instinct was to cover up that pain and protect us. That’s the part that made me cry.
And today when I see that covered hole in the hallway? I don’t get angry or sad. I don’t regret mental illness or rage. Instead, when I see that covered hole in the hallway, I smile. It’s a picture of my amazingly flawed family, and I smile.
The Diagnosis and Health Care section of this website has a section on mental and behavioral health--visit it to learn more.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.