This day will always remind me of the worst April Fools joke on our family. It was four years ago when the twins were in the tenth grade.
Actually, it wasn’t a joke, but what we did that day seemed so unbelievable that some thought it was an elaborate joke that my daughter, Jessica, and I schemed up together.
The evening of March 31st, we told Jessica that we were taking her to a residential treatment center in Utah. April 1st we ran errands and packed, and April 2nd the three of us boarded a plane to Utah for the first time ever.
One errand was to go to her school at lunchtime so Jessica could say goodbye to her friends. The problem was that it was April Fools Day, so no one believed her. I can’t blame them because even on a normal day the unexpected news would have been unbelievable. But on April Fools Day, no one was going to be that gullible.
“Utah? Tomorrow? Yeah, right.” She wanted to say goodbye, but no one returned the farewell. As far as they were concerned, this “April Fools” wasn’t going to work on them.
I wish that it were a joke. But even though her friends thought that everything was okay, our family knew better. Recently we had been living more of a nightmare than a joke. And it was time to get help.
It’s not like we hadn’t already sought help. We read every book we could get our hands on. I read my first parenting book when I was pregnant, What to Expect When Expecting, and quickly filled up the bookshelf with ample advise from Dobson for every parenting dilemma. Dare to Discipline was on the shelf beside my Bible. And when we adopted the two-year-old twins, we adopted even more resources for the adventure.
No matter how many books we had, though, there wasn’t a book that shed light on our parenting predicament. So we added therapy sessions to our book collection–lots of sessions, but little progress.
Finally, as if it was the punch line to a very bad joke, we found ourselves packing for a residential treatment center on April Fools Day. Even Jessica had a hard time believing it (she waited a week before unpacking her bags at the center—convinced that even if it wasn’t a joke, surely it was all a bluff).
That was four years ago, and a lot of healing has happened since then. But when April 1st roles around, I still feel tender. I feel the tender wound from the grief that I felt when we decided that the best thing we could do for our tenth grade daughter was to step aside. I feel tender because April 1st reminds me of a painful journey. And it reminds me that parenting is hard work—emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I can’t help but see the humor, though, in such a pivotal day in the “Greenhouse” happening on April Fools Day. Maybe the biggest joke was on me. I was the gullible one who started parenting with a book in my hand thinking I could actually know what to expect from the time I was expecting.
So, moms and dads, check your zipper and make sure that your shoes are tied today.
And when you encounter the unexpected, or if you’ve already been bombarded by it, be assured that you are not alone.
I’m thinking about you today and praying for our parenting journeys.