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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fear, Suffering and My Daughter's Blister...

The dreaded cuticle scissors...
“Trust me!” I said, while raising my voice, as I held a pair of sharp-pointed cuticle scissors in my right hand and struggled desperately to hold my ten-year-old daughter’s foot steady with my left hand (in retrospect, maybe not the portrait of calm and pacification I was aiming for).

She wasn’t having anything to do with my demands, frantically pleading in agony. In fact, it was the type of agony that appeared to come from the depths of her soul.

“No daddy. Not right now. Let’s do it later,” as tears rolled down her face. Things obviously weren’t going very well.

Maybe, her fear was more acute because I was the one wielding the scissors instead of her mom. I sometimes wonder if I left a psychological scar on her the day I dropped her from our bed when she was 8-months-old. The poor baby went plummeting headfirst into the floor and was in such shock when I picked her up that she couldn’t even cry. We had to call rescue, which by the time the paramedics arrived, our daughter was playing peacefully on our bed. As first time parents, it was one of the most harrowing experiences in our life that I certainly will never forget. 

Anyway, the current crisis started as our Sanibel vacation was coming to an end last weekend. Our daughter started limping around and complaining about a blister on her right foot. By the time we drove back home, she was whining about the “unbearable” pain so my wife and I decided it was time to pop that sucker and ease her suffering.

C’mon, my wife runs marathons and triathlons and I played baseball and wore cheap dancing shoes for most of my life (I was a ringer Quinceañera dancer in my teens), we know a thing or two about blisters on our feet.

If she had listened to us that night, we would have drained it while it was still relatively small. But noooo, when we tried to heal her, she bolted from our room, screaming hysterically in terror, “No, no, no… Not now! Later!” As if later was going to make it any easier or give her more courage.

You would think, as a stage actor wannabe, she was drawing on the Agony in the Garden from within her (only probably with more crying, distress and sheer terror). Not that I’m making a comparison. Let’s be real. Jesus was facing the cruelest, most inhumane torture and death imaginable and all my daughter was facing was the prick on a nagging blister!

Instead of holding her down like a calf about to be branded, we decided to let her suffer the consequences.

She spent all of the next day limping around at summer camp and the blister grew to the shape of about a two-inch roasted peanuts shell on the bottom and (now) side of her foot.

At that point, she was clearly in a lot of pain (although her pain threshold is apparently nothing to brag about) but her fear of the remedy was even greater.

Mind you, this is the same girl, who at 4 years of age, did not even whimper as a doctor stitched up her forehead above the eye, after my wife split it open with a dumbbell while working out in our living room. (You could say living with the Espinosas is not easy!)

However, now, at about 5 feet tall (she was the second tallest in her 4th Grade class) and slightly over a hundred pounds, she was groveling and wailing irrationally.

It reminded me of a story that author Kimberly Hahn, the wife of Dr. Scott Hahn, tells on her conversion CD about a time that she had to rush her young daughter to the hospital with an extremely high fever. The doctors and nurses came into the room with ice cold towels and place them on her daughter’s body, as the little girl screamed in agony and pain, calling out to her “Mommy, Mommy.” Kimberly said that she was torn to shreds inside but, despite her daughter’s anguish, helped the medical team hold her down to apply the cold towels. She knew it would help heal her.

The author used the anecdote to point out how we often treat God. We can’t understand the pain and anguish we are put through. Some may even think God doesn’t love them because He allows them to suffer yet, although extremely difficult for most of us to grasp, because we are allowed to suffer, may be an indication of how much God loves us; more than we can ever imagine. Only when we get through the rough times can we reflect and realize the benefit of our suffering.

Bl. Pope John Paul II described suffering as a way of uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering on the Cross. He said we are sharpened like metal through fire and, in the process, grow closer to Christ and become more like Him, as Christians are called to be.

This of course, is more philosophical and profound then my daughter’s blister would elicit and, while I must admit, slapping some sense into her did cross my mind; I decided to try a more loving approach. I took a step back from my own determination to get the job done and calmly tried to diminish her fear (by creating an even greater fear!).

I asked her, “Do you want the blister to continue to grow and be even more painful tomorrow?” She shook her head. I’m sure the cuticle scissors started making more sense to her.

In all honesty, fear can be a paralyzing emotion and, as I now understand, it is nothing more than a lack of faith and trust in God. Moreover, regardless of how weak or strong our faith is, we all experience it from time to time.

I’m sure this point would be lost on my ten-year-old daughter but, like anyone who is afraid, she had three options; either do nothing, continue to cower from it (both of which were bad options considering the seed I had planted in her mind) or confront it. I’m proud to say, despite her inclination to fight with every fiber of her being; my daughter calmed down enough, and trusted me enough, to choose the latter.

I was able to pop that sucker after all and by the next morning, she was walking around as if nothing happened…

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