The explosion exploded, and the children witnessed the battle, so how do we go forward navigating the land mines. The aftermath of a fight can be just as bad: silence, slamming doors, snide remarks, tension, MIA father. I am on guard duty in my own home, trying to protect my children from a father whose bursts of anger, bullying, and marijuana usage triggers his old crack-ish behavior. Everybody is different, and drugs affect people differently. I never thought that marijuana, a common drug, so seemingly innocent, mild, harmless, medicinally helpful, and legal in some places, could cause so much harm.

My spouse said mean, harsh things to the children that I know he has come to regret. Romping around, a cartoon, or music too loud can cause an overreaction and a nasty outburst. Words can cut deeper than a knife. Words can be taken-back but not unsaid. I cannot un-ring a bell, but rebuking the words and explaining can soften the clang. I know my children are sometimes fearful, sad and anxious, and I pray my children never lose their capacity to love, trust and have healthy relationships in the future. I express unconditional love and support to my children daily; they know they can talk to me anytime. I encourage my children to rise above the chaos. Forgiveness is a good start. I instill in them that it’s not their fault and pray they receive it. Dysfunction weakens the family, but dysfunction does not have to damage the family beyond repair.

I need to know if my children are affected by their environment, so I monitor and observe them. They are little soldiers and sometimes say they’re Ok when they’re not.  So, I look for clues of inner turmoil. Right or wrong, I snoop and ramble in their rooms, looking for drugs, depressing notes, or pictures. And I will skim a diary if I find one. I go through their trash, drawers, closets, pockets, purses, and backpacks.  I lurk around the corner and eavesdrop.  Do they pee in bed at night, have nightmares, can’t sleep, or lose or gain weight. If so, I won’t hesitate to take them to the doctor or doctors.  Do they act out in school, get F’s, fight, bully, or hang out with the wrong kids. I go to all parent-teacher conferences, and teachers can call me anytime.  I keep my eye on my kids, ready to defend, diffuse, explain, or do whatever it takes to protect them. They’ll have to face the world on their own, and I don’t want them to muddle through like my spouse and I did, clueless about dysfunction, insecurity, repeating patterns, low self-esteem, choosing the wrong mates, or choosing drugs to dull the pain.

When chaos unfolds and I’m not home, I tell them to leave, go to the library if they’re old enough, or retreat to their bedroom if they’re not. Chaos is not physical; it’s yelling, threats, and hurtful words. Thank God for libraries and cell phones. Every day I ask my children if everything is Ok–are you Ok; if not, we talk about it, pray about it, hug-it-out, and forgive. God made children resilient, and there is hope with the support of at least one sane or sober parent, mentor, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, counselor, pastor, or friend.