Things that take up too much space in my head: obviously, chocolate, and secondarily, potato chips. That pretty much goes without saying. In an unrelated thread of course, aging and the way my body looks. Ha! And all that that means. Parents and children, and all the struggles therein. Yes, I know, some parents and kids do fine. They’re not the ones renting room in my head. I admit, the last one makes the first two look a little silly.
Quite a few friends are working through serious issues with their kids. Some are dear friends, some are fighting battles that are potentially deadly, whether they be physical or behavioral. Or a mix of the two. Or maybe emotional. Or possibly spiritual. Or else…. You get the point; there’s just soooo many things out there waiting to become difficulties you have to deal with alongside your kids. And I know this all too well. Our family has been through it. And by through it I mean every variety and mix of rage, loss, tears, fears, sorrows, mistakes, regrets, horrors, and pain you can think of. Life can be like that; thus, the afore-mentioned chocolate and potato chips.
How do you get through it?… Wouldn’t it be great if I had some kind of solid answer? Some wisdom that could calm fears, dismantle terror and grief? I don’t know that such a thing exists for pain so visceral, so bone-deep and consuming. There is no “solution” for grief that stops the very spinning of the earth, or sadness that sucks color from every vista. Parents battling addiction or mental issues or even sometimes just the teenage passage live in a grim landscape. So much of the fight is without weaponry; waiting is the name of this grey, helpless game. And while it is absolutely true that there are parents who damage their children, it is also quite true that much of what some parents, and kids, suffer in a given day or year or decade feels fairly random. I think of the 50 sets of parents grieving their children lost in Orlando. It is a dark season for so many, and the only way through it is through it. Which sounds ridiculous but is surprisingly astute.
From what I can tell life just, well, happens. And it happens differently for some people than others. Again, much appears to be random. Some are dealt loving homes, with solid parents; some get Joan Crawford. Many birth healthy, happy children, and you see bluebirds flying above their heads as they walk down the street. Others are challenged by handicaps and hardships that make them seriously hate bluebirds. We had four kids, and I used to joke that if I only had the first two, I’d be in counseling; if I only had the last two people would come to me for counseling. All four were adored and raised with the same love and care, but each had their own path; some were more bird-oriented than others, ahem.
Here’s some survivor tips for those in the trenches: first, let people love you. Sure, there are those who will judge, or misjudge you. But you’ve got no time for other peoples’ problems. So let the friends and family who get it help you carry this load. Laugh whenever you can, and loudly. Laughter helps so much; you NEED that kind of oxygen running through your veins. So find those angels who will help you mine the humor; it’s in there, I promise. Be with encouragers, and avoid those who are without hope. You will need a lot of hope to get through; some days hope is all you have, and the thread is slim. Friends who look ahead with faith can shine light into some very dark corners, and it will make a difference.
Learn to sit with pain and be okay with it. You don’t have to like it; you’re not crazy. But into each life some rain will fall. To expect immunity from the human condition is foolish and wasted energy. Pain will come but you can limit its power over you. Look deeply into its face. If it is pain that must be walked through, get some comfortable shoes and get to it. Check out the scenery as you travel; no sense making the journey and getting nothing out of it. There are things to be learned, strengths to be gained. Make every step count. Set limits on how much ground you are willing to give up. You’re not in charge of everything on the road, but you’re not completely without power either. Remember past triumphs.
Guard the door of your heart and mind very closely, and do not give room to fear of what may come. It may not. Why worry over it until it does? Even if it does, you will get through it. THAT’S what you want to feed your spirit with, the truth that speaks life to your bones. It ain’t no joke: guard your thought life well, and only deal with what HAS happened, not what could. Get in touch with every good part of your being, and I know you know what those are. Take some time and remind yourself of your fierceness. You eat bluebirds for breakfast!
If you are dealing with behavioral issues, make a point of remembering how much you love your kid. I know you know that, but it’s important to keep it within arm’s reach. We had years of turmoil with our older sons. Fortunately, they seemed to take turns, and we rarely were struggling with both at once. But for a period of years, it seemed one if not both were wildly angry at us and acting accordingly. We didn’t often get to FEEL the warm fuzzies, but I tried to remind myself regularly of all the love that lay beneath the yelling and general smashing. And the Universe is kind, and will at least occasionally let moments of light shine through, when you get to laugh together or even love together for a moment with your angry child. Those golden moments will feed you for a long time if you stoke them.
Geez, I almost sound like I know what I’m talking about. But I’m no expert. I’m probably coasting on the fumes of yesterday’s warm fuzzy. Our oldest son just completed 6 months of jail and rehab for drug-related behaviors. He was fortunate to get into a good rehab and once he was clean he was able to hear the kind of truths that will keep him free if he holds on to them. We’ve waited for years for the call that his dad got from him yesterday, Father’s Day. We’ve both always HATED those artificial Hallmark holidays that are painful for so many, but yesterday was a bright moment for Paul and Jesse. Words were said that have been a long, long time coming. Which brings me to my last thought: hope. Always and forever hope. And when that is too tough, count on friends to carry the ball for a round or two while you rest. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And even then it ain’t over. That’s the thing about life. The sun rises in the morning each and every day. Let it shine on you.