Parenting is not easy. Parenting in the 21st Century is not easy. Parenting during a Global Pandemic is fuckin hard!
Today something happened. I was sitting at my kitchen table just finishing up my 2nd period class when Kev walks in the kitchen and carelessly looks inside the fridge, as most hungry boys do and then walks over and glances inside the pantry. I can tell right away that he wanted my attention. I waited a bit, pretended I was busy on my computer. One of the attributes I have been trying to instill in this kid is being able to advocate for himself. I mean he’s 18 years old after all, which means he should be able to do such things right? At least that’s what all the “professionals” and our “well developed society” tells us. See, there is this magic spell that happens when someone turns 18. They rapidly become these responsible adults who have their lives all figured out. They know exactly what they want to do as a career, they never need assistance in “adulting” like making their appointments, paying all their bills, and of course making this world a better place since we screwed it up to begin with.
Anyway, he asked, “Mom, are you busy?” I looked over my computer and said, “I happen to be on my prep right now and then lunch so I have a few minutes. What’s up?”
I had him sit next to me and it happened.
He asked for helped.
He advocated for himself.
He admitted that he can’t do this thing called life on his own.
You see, he’s not doing so well with online school as a freshman at UNM. He doesn’t get to hang out with his peers or have access to the resources had he been able to live on campus. That’s right, he had to move back home thanks to good ol’ Rona. So now he’s stuck in his room trying to navigate online courses with nobody to really help, because let’s face it, when everyone in the household is busy doing their own thing; working, schooling, appointments and such, there just isn’t the time to do what is necessary to succeed. Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else, or is it just my family?
I refuse to feel guilty anymore. I refuse to accept the reality that we push our children to have their life figured out by 18, 20, or 30. Hell, I was married and divorced at 19 years old!! Started having babies at 21 (not married by the way, tsk tsk) and changed my major/careers at least three times. My husband barely found a job he is satisfied with in his forties.
So as I sat and listened to my son, looking into his big brown eyes, tears forming, I knew this was the first step for him to finally get the help he truly needs. If you have followed and read my blog for a few years, you know that I haven’t held back with my struggles with my son. If you know me well, you know how much my heart aches for that kid to have a successful life that he feels good about. Notice that I didn’t mention happiness. With everything going on around us, I have come to believe that it is not our job to make anyone happy. Happiness is truly a state of attitude and not a state of circumstance. Parenting is definitely not about making our children “happy,” otherwise everyone will end up exhausted and disappointed.
Kevin was never a happy child. I tried so hard to make that kid happy. Let’s just say that we both ended up angry, confused, and hurt. So now as I try to navigate this new normal, and I am not just talking about the Pandemic, but the new normal of what it means to raise children in this world where anxiety, depression and self-harm is a way of life, it is important that I truly understand what is going on.
So what is going on? Our kids are struggling and we need to be there for them. Not to criticize that they should already know better, not to shame them because they make poor decisions, or live a life that is different than what we imagined when we knew of their existence.
The conversation that followed in my kitchen today- Kevin wanted help but he didn’t want the shame that came with it. He was afraid of what other people would think of him because he needed a little professional help. I did my best to comfort and encourage him to take that leap of faith and give it try. After all, I’ve been on anti-depressants for a few years now and have worked with a therapist to help me navigate the depression and anger that lingers in my soul. I do it shamelessly because of the difference it has made in my life. No one questions taking Tylenol when they have a headache, and no one questions the diabetic when they need to take insulin. We shouldn’t question the mental health of our fellow brothers and sisters.
You know what? Kevin is a good kid. I always knew he was a good kid and I believe he will be successful. Right now, we need to realize that our children are really hurting during this time. So much of the world around them doesn’t make sense and as much as we want to blame our political leaders, or stay in our anger of the situation we are in, it won’t do any good for our children.
We need to hold them and tell them– no– promise them, that it is going to be okay. Somehow or another, it will work out. Sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned, and sometimes we really struggle and life really sucks, but that doesn’t mean they suck. I tried to explain to Kevin that what he is going through is “okay.” It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be unmotivated, it’s okay to be confused, and hurt. I tried to explain that if we were not in a Global Pandemic his experience of college would be dramatically different. He would be able to hang out with his peers who have walked before him and show him the way. He would be having fun going to college parties, meeting new friends and girls. He would be having study dates, going to football games, and playing his trumpet at Popejoy Hall.
See, we have a responsibility to our children, to help them help themselves. To give them the hard answers that life IS hard. But what makes our lives so meaningful are the relationships we have around us, those relationships that refuse to let us fall, that refuse to let us stay stuck, that refuse to allow anger and hurt to drive our depressions.
Let’s be kind, most of all, let’s just BE THERE for our children. Whatever that may look like is what it should look like. Doesn’t matter if your child is 6 or 18 or 21. They need you, whether you are their parent, relative, teacher or friend. If you know them, you know what they need, what they need to hear, and what should be done.
We are in this together so let us BE THERE for each other as we navigate this bullshit virus and win at this crazy game called life.