My youngest child had academic testing yesterday. He and I arrived at an office in the morning, and I was ushered into a room and handed three inventories to complete. One had 86 questions; one had 275; the last had 160. Needless to say, they were thorough.
I answered “true” or “yes” to quite a few questions, most of them related to high energy levels and difficulty focusing, and there were others about which I thought, “Well, that doesn’t relate to Patrick but it’s true for Jake”—or Maddie—or Emily—or me! I recognized each of my four children—and myself—in some of the items.
But most of the statements brought me both perspective and gratitude. For every “false” or “no” I checked, that was another issue we were not facing.
I texted some of these to Dave, my husband.
“My child has very low self esteem.”
“My child is painfully shy around new people.”
Then one of the statements simply made me stop.
#53: “I’m afraid my child is going insane.”
True or False.
And I felt a little sick.
Because, obviously, there must be parents who have to mark “true.”
We each have troubles we can talk about, things like frustrations with our children or our parents, illnesses and actual losses.
But there is also a list of unmentionables we generally keep hidden: addiction, mental illness, rage issues, money troubles, marital conflict…
Our voices literally hush, softened with shame, when we speak of those. If we speak of those.
When the testing finished for the day, Patrick and I put on coats, hats, and gloves to brave the deep cold. Our drive home took us past the middle-class suburban neighborhoods I drive through nearly every day. One after another, the homes presented neat, tidy fronts. Trim siding and smoke from the chimneys proclaimed “All is well!” but I wondered about the unmentionable topics hid away inside. If I slipped an inventory under each door, which ones would come back with “true” marked for #53? Which ones would affirm “I’m afraid in my own home,” “My child is a real threat to himself or others,” or “One of the child’s parents continually threatens abandonment”?
No adults shoveled driveways; no children played in the snow. The cold had driven everyone inside.
Where secrets can be kept, and unmentionables are lived out.
All is not well.
Oh come, Lord Jesus, come.
And in the meantime, help your people to see and speak.