Monday, April 5, 2010
Praying for the Burn
The stove is one of those issues Finn liked to push. He knows he isn't supposed to touch it, he knows (forgive the pun) it's a hot button for me.
"It is hot now?" he'll ask, again and again, when he's trying to get my goat. "It doesn't look hot, so can I touch it here?" he'll say, putting his fingernail on the very corner of the glass. Each and every time I'll get mad, and say those things Moms say: I'm not going to tell you again, don't touch it, if you burn yourself it will really hurt, stop it, stop it, stop it. Like running into the road, it is one of those things I always react strongly to; the stakes are too high to let him learn the lesson on his own.
Last night Steve cooked some popcorn the old fashioned way, in oil in a pot on the stove. Mere minutes after Steve removed the pot, Finn put his hand on the still-hot burner. He screamed instantly, cupped his hand and looked at me with wide, terrified eyes. "IT HURTS MOMMA! IT HURTS! IT HURTS! IT HURTS SO MUCH!"
We immediately stuck his hand in a bag of ice water, and about five minutes later we could see, with a lot of relief, that it wasn't too bad. He was going to be okay.
I realized he just didn't believe us, that he could get seriously hurt. The stove issue became kind of a game of action/reaction. He enjoyed provoking a reaction in me, and forgot the message I was trying to drum into his head. I have told him hundreds of times to stop, and I could have told him one hundred more. He wasn't going to stop until he burned himself. All I can do is be thankful it wasn't worse.
When someone is actively struggling with addiction, burning themselves over and over, it's a difficult predicament. Warnings, getting angry, offering cautionary tales - all too often these simply don't work.
Most of the time, all I can do is be there, suit up and show up, when it finally happens. When the burn comes and this time, for whatever reason, someone has had enough. All I can do is be present when they hit bottom. There isn't room for I told you so. There is only room for action, for showing someone: there is a better way to live. I'm not saying it is easier, but it is simpler.
But I can't make them look.