I Have a “That” Child

Last week at MACHE, the session I had circled and starred so I would definitely not miss it was entitled “What about THAT child?” – it was given by my friend Rachael Carman (who incidentally owns Apologia). Rachael is a home school mom of seven who appears to have it all together with more than half of her kiddos out of high school and in either secondary education or jobs out in the “real world.” How in the world could SHE know what it’s like to have a “THAT child”?

She started out her talk by telling those in attendance that if you aren’t sure what a “THAT child” is….you don’t have one. Lots of laughter and nods greeted that! She also informed us that she had permission from her “THAT child” to talk about what they had gone thru. She also let us know that a “THAT child” knows without a doubt they are a “THAT child.”

Wait. What??? She has a “THAT child”? Not only does she have a “THAT child” (actually more than one), she then proceeded to talk quite a bit about her son….my niece’s husband.

I was floored — I know him as an adult, a humorous man, one who is highly intelligent, a good husband and father, and someone who was offered an excellent teaching position even before he graduated from college. Immediately I started having hope for my “THAT child” — and fighting tears as I realized there are more parents than I realized who deal with the same thing.  (By the way, Rachael shared how he was terrified when he and my niece found out they were expecting their first child — apologizing to his wife and mother in case their baby would be “like him.”)

Some of the common things a parent may say to a “THAT child” are “What are you supposed to be doing?” “How many times do I have to tell you?” “Pay attention!!!” “Be still.” “Are you listening?” “REALLY??” “No.” “Stop.” “WHAT were you thinking???”

If you’ve read this far and still aren’t too sure if you have a “THAT child,” you probably don’t, but here are some indications — They demand all your time, their mood is completely unpredictable, if you can’t hear them you need to find them, their thinking rarely precedes their actions, graduation seems REALLY far away, nothing seems to work, you worry how they are affecting other children, they know all your buttons….and push them all.at.once, discipline dominates every day.

My “THAT child” doesn’t fit a few of these….”THAT child” fits every single one of the things listed in the two paragraphs above this. I am brought to tears often, sometimes even in front of “THAT child.” I (shh!) sometimes struggle with even liking “THAT child” as a person (although I love THAT child deeply…and try endlessly to find what will work between us).

We sat down after conference and went through these — and “THAT child” knew immediately this was about him/her. I made it clear I was NOT EVER going to give up and that I would continue saying “No” and “Stop” but that we were also going to change a few things based on things Rachael discovered worked for her “THAT child,” I am going to become a better advocate for “THAT child” (and already have talked with some other adults in his/her life who I know love and care for him/her), I’m going to do my best to make sure “THAT child” knows our love will only continue to grow deeper, that while s/he is wired a bit differently, boundaries are still boundaries — but goals can be reached in different ways.

Rachael talked about the “THAT childs” in scripture – perhaps the most obvious (besides Samson, Cain, David, and more) being Peter….and how often Jesus must’ve face-palmed Himself when dealing with Peter or watching him dive head first without thinking, acting based on first emotions (he wasn’t going for the ear, he was going for the head; wanting Christ to wash ALL of him, not just his feet; Peter’s denial; jumping into the water to walk to Christ, rushing straight into the empty tomb, etc.) and passion rather than pausing and thinking logically….and yet Christ used His impetuous “THAT child” to build His church — because He knew and understood that typical “THAT childs” are earth movers, world changers, and cannot be stopped…unless as parents and society we break them rather than encourage them and accept them, guiding them to become who GOD intends them to be.

I still struggle with my “THAT child” and suspect I will for some time, but I look at him/her differently. We dealt with another round last night…and then again today. I’m sitting in the back of a darkened church working on things here rather than home because of some things that needed to be dealt with directly with my “THAT child” — but the love my child shows, the sparkle back in “THAT child’s” eyes doesn’t make me apprehensive about what is being planned in his/her mind, it makes me smile as I see “THAT child” realizing s/he has the freedom to become who God intends him/her to be.

If you have a “THAT child” — don’t give up hope. Cry when you need to. Say those words above — Stop. Don’t. REALLY? — but make sure you are giving plenty of I love you, you should be so proud of yourself, and more. Snuggle. Plan special times. PRAY — because I often think prayer may be the only thing that saves the sanity — or maybe the life (tongue in cheek here, folks) of a “THAT child” and/or the parent(s) that deal with them.

Want to hear the talk yourself? https://mache.org/store/products/audio/4411/what-about-child is the direct link to the MACHE site — it is $4 for an MP3 download or $7 (plus s/h) for a CD. I believe MACHE members get a discount.  There are many other great sessions, too, and Rachael’s husband Davis led a few on similar subject (“Never Give Up”).  Rachael also had another great session called “Attention-Obsessive, Compulsive-Perfectionist, Control-freaks: CHILL OUT” — https://mache.org/store/products/audio/4444/attention-obsessive-compulsive-perfectionist-control-freaks-chill-out. (She’s a great speaker — there were LOTS of great speakers, as always.)

If you know our family, you probably know which is our “THAT child” — and I thank you so much for those who go out of the way to love on this child and give them special (positive) attention.  It means the world to us.  Those “THAT childs” are usually easily identified even outside our own families – and while sometimes they aren’t the easiest to deal with and wear us — and them — down mentally, physically, and emotionally, when others take their time to encourage them (or us parents), it makes a huge difference.

Thank you, Rachael, for giving me hope and a new perspective to deal with my “THAT child” — for loving him/her the way God made them — and even more thanks to God (with a slight tongue in cheek) for entrusting a “THAT child” to me.

(…and no, I don’t look at him/her and immediately think of them with the label “THAT child” — I just repeated it thru this for emphasis).


Author: L. Carter, 2017 MACHE Conference attendee.