"All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair."
~Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
As parents, we try our best to be what our kids need. At least, I think, the majority of us do. We make mistakes, say or do the wrong thing and then try to fix it. But we hope to never crack or shatter the people we love the most.
As I sit here this morning I'm taking a break from another day coping with a child fighting severe depression. It's been almost two years of major medical bills, doctors, and tears. This morning he won't get out of bed. I've tried everything including a phone call to his therapist who also tried everything.
I know he's had smudges and cracks in his life. He didn't handle the divorce of his parent's seven years ago well. He had some experiences in junior high that broke his confidence. And then an altercation with his father who justified it as a 'right of passage' that, two years later, remains what my son describes in therapy as one of his worst days.
He also has the genetic makeup to be prone to depression.
What everyone who works with him says is, "he's such a sweet kid." He's in a group therapy program and his best days are when he feels like he has helped someone else. He thanks me for driving him to every appointment, refilling every prescription, attending every meeting. There is not one thing I do that he forgets to thank me for. He has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met and that can sometimes add to his sadness.
He described the sadness once as "filling." As if some days he's so filled with sadness he can't hold anything else so he just has to sleep until it's less full. This is one of those days.
But yesterday, in our family meeting with his therapist, I found out that one of my son's favorite things is often our family dinners. He had told his group that it's not uncommon for us to sit for two hours talking about everything and anything, usually motivated by his chatty sister or funny step-father. We have one night a week where activities overlap and dinner is grab-and-go. There are a few nights a month where I am working and just my husband controls the meals. I don't like those nights. I feel like I'm missing out on something.
So the therapist was so impressed with our family dynamic he commented on it several times. Their step-dad and I have a very open and loving relationship with them so conversation is fun and easy.
But my kids haven't always had this dynamic. When I was married to my ex-husband I worked many nights in an attempt to avoid that person. I tried not to work on nights he would be gone. Family dinners were rare and never relaxed. Eat and disburse was the scenario or they would eat a packed or picked up dinner at my workplace. At the time it was more about my sanity and protecting the kids from what was clearly a disfunctional relationship, not about enjoying each other's company.
We try our best and always think we should try harder. If, as a parent, you don't feel this way I'm guessing you are in a smooth spot (enjoy it while it lasts) or you just don't care enough to worry.
I know so many of you are dealing with your own parenting issues. I often hear about them and it never stops being a bit of a shock to know that everyone seems to have something. No matter how grand our social media persona is we all deal with our own, personal cracks. And just like my son in his group therapy, we should never have to feel alone while trying to glue the pieces back together.
So I guess my idea is to reach out to each other. Don't be afraid or ashamed to talk about the bad stuff as well as the good. You may not only find some comfort for yourself but you may, as my son so likes to do, help someone else in your journey.
"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
~Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah