I don’t know about your children, but mine seem to have a very small memory for some things and an elephant-like memory for others. I look at them and wonder where this comes from but then I remember a conversation I had a few hours ago about something I’d completely forgotten while bitching about something I can’t let go of.
Let’s call this “Human.”
My children are quintessential human. Nobody tells you this when you’re pregnant and having dreams about birthing a taco.
They have their own emotions and perceptions and thoughts which are always wrong, and not looking at the bigger picture and so self focused, JEEZE, SERIOUSLY, like humans can be. Like I can be. So I try to empathize.
One of the major changes we’ve made since learning about our daughter’s depression and anxiety trouble, is how we communicate. The day she wanted to run away and I told her “You can say Literally ANYTHING to me. You can tell me to Fuck Off. It’s on the table.” I had to mean this, not just that day, but every day.
So three weeks later when she writes to me that I make her feel like a used piece of meat, I had to pick my heart up off the floor and look my ego straight in the face and say, "Ya, Ok, I can see you think this is bullshit, but we put it on the table. It’s time to take our seat.”
I went in to her room to talk to her, as empathetically as I could. I’m not saying it was fantastic. I’m not saying I didn’t want to kick and scream and throw my own mom fit because I have put her first over so many things and THIS IS THE THANKS I GET? But I said none of those things because I know that sometimes your feelings take over and sometimes three hours ago can be a lifetime ago.
See, we have small memories for love.
I was at a talk a few months ago and the slide read simply, “WE ALL CAME FROM PARANOID PEOPLE.” It’s true. The people who were out there ignoring their instinct to run from that tiger or to not poke the bear? They’re all dead a long long time ago. Those people never evolved to see the New Paranoia. So the theory goes that we’re all wired to be negative because that is how we got to here.
It’s hard to remember this when you’re looking at your child, whom you just spent an hour making cookies with, laughing to a Dr. Who and snuggling, telling you that you don’t love them. What planet are you on, Kid?
I’ve talked about perception of my children before. I think this is the bigger struggle when trying to figure out if your child is depressed or just being …. a child. This is why you miss the first few signs of depression. This is how it’s possible to be as loving and as caring as you can be, thinking you’re being present, and then BLAMO, find out all these thoughts of death are occupying your kid.
There’s a teeter-totter there and parenting is the robo-teeter-totter that hangs from a merry-go-round. And no, there aren’t any seat belts, silly.
Open communication with your teen means you’re going to get the brunt of the pendulum. You’ll see the swings, experience all the slides. Here’s the lesson, though: You DO NOT HAVE TO RIDE THE RIDE. You’re not a bad parent if you choose not to Go There. I’m reminding myself that it’s the GOOD PARENT that is a witness.
“People who are hurting don't need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witness. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain.” -Love Warrior
This is why, three days later, when both kids are well slept, fed, and have had time with friends and parents and sunshine, when my daughter grabs my hand and pulls me to her bedroom just to talk for a while about this cool thing they’re doing in school, I could sit and listen. In my mind, my pendulum is still swinging and I have whiplash from the changes but in her mind, she is consistently open, she is consistently turning to us, she is sharing from her heart.
What I have to remember is that I am honored and privileged to be a witness to her heart.
What I also have to remember is that we are now three weeks in to anti-depression medication. That’s the magic number. It can seem like things have “turned over night” but it’s our humanity that makes us forget about the blend of ups and downs of the past three weeks. Suddenly it’s as if none of that happened. But it did happen. And yes, we’re poking our heads out of the darkness and rubbing our eyes and wondering if it’s safe to come out now? But we’re not so foolish to think this is it. This is only the beginning.
Don’t make the mistake that “Because things seem ok” you stop doing the supportive things you’ve put in place. THAT IS WHY THINGS SEEM OK. Because you’re doing all these supportive steps to ensure that brain chemistry, sleep, food, self care, exercise, etc, are happening.
As Elizabeth Gilbert said, “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
It’s work. But it’s worth it. I can’t think of anything with a bigger reward at the end.