Sometimes being in a box is fun. Like when we got our TV a few years ago and the kids made it into a playhouse for a few weeks. They spent hours in there, coloring the walls, adding stickers, filling it with blankets and other things that made it feel cozy and like a little home. They didn’t care that it was too tiny for all of them to pile in at once. The crampedness somehow made it great.
Other boxes aren’t so much fun. Like the 10×10 box-of-a-room my 7 year old and I have visited in myriad medical buildings during her life. Just me and my little half-pint, whose body never fully recovered since the diagnosis of “Failure to Thrive” as a toddler in foster care.
The box is always the same: White. Boring. Quiet. Often unsettling. This time was for PT, so it was a little less scary. Next time, depending on the issue, it might be a crawl-in-mom’s-lap-and-don’t-let-go-of-her kind of scary. Or it will be boring. And I’ll ask her what she’s up to at school, but won’t get an answer because we both kind of go numb waiting in the box together. Try as I might with coloring books, games, books, whatever… the box just drains us.
I despise the box. And that most of my individual time with my little girl happens in one. And the medical and psychiatric issues that drive us to the box. And the big doctors or scary tests and scans that happen in the box. And the treatments, medications, and endless therapies we have to do at home because of what the person in the box decided.
More than anything, I despise who the box tries to make me. How it presses and squeezes out my silly, wild, curious self. It makes me somebody I don’t want to be – not as a mom, not as a person.
And so I’ve made it my quest to beat the box. To somehow thrive despite the box. I look for ways to know my daughter, in all her variety and spunk, no matter where we’re sitting. I look for new things to talk about. For a different perspective for us both. For us to somehow simultaneously embrace and reject our boxed life …and because of a shared vision, to be free at heart even if we’re physically in a box together. I want the box to be part of our life, but not the only thing we remember of her childhood.
Is that shift possible? To learn to thrive inside the box? For my daughter and I to responsibly seek help for her, and not lose our vibrance in a world of pale white rooms and fluorescent lights? To somehow change the box so it becomes an extension of us, instead of letting it drain the color from our relationship? I truly believe it is.
We’ve all got a box somewhere in our lives. A 10×10 space that we must live with. Like raising a child with special needs. Living with a chronic medical condition. Enduring a loss. There’s lots of talk out there about thinking outside the box. And at times that’s a good idea. But at some point we have to return to the moment, however difficult it might be. We have to decide to thrive INside the box.
What box is a part of your life right now? How will you thrive inside the box you’re in?