Editor’s Note: We seldom post things anonymously, however, this is one of those times.
Few people know what to say when your kid is the bad one, the difficult child, the teen with the problems.
Contributing to the group conversation is always complicated when all you have to offer resembles “well, he hasn’t been arrested yet” or “we don’t know yet if she’s pregnant, but we will find out soon.” We all love to talk about our kids and celebrate their accomplishments, but how do we do that when that accomplishment is an entire month without stealing anything from a parent or sibling, or a full week of attending every single class at school? Yeah, that’s not easy. I’m talking here about the really tough kids – the ones we think might end up in prison before they have the chance to graduate from high school (if they even graduate at all), or maybe in drug rehab. Or so many other places, things, end results that as parents we can’t even allow ourselves to say aloud.
There’s so little room for this part of parenting in the break room at work, across the lunch table or in a Facebook chat at 11 p.m. when you can’t sleep because that same child, the one who took your heart for their own the day they were born, is struggling for something you cannot provide. We all know how to congratulate someone when their child gets into their college of choice, makes the grade, the team, gets their first job, is the kid so many respect or admire. Far less of us know how to respond when our friends’ children are in trouble.
As tough as it is to be the parent, now imagine being that kid. Your parents don’t brag about you to their friends because there is little to say. When they do offer a few safe stories, most listeners sit in silence with friendly smiles and think quietly to themselves “thank goodness I am not dealing with any of this.” You may be known for what you’re not instead of what you are – a troublemaker instead of an amazing artist, a liar instead of a promising athlete, a thief rather than a talented musician, quick to pick a fight rather than the best writer in the family. And on and on.
For those of us fighting right alongside our kids for their place in the world, parents who shed tears and sweat and even blood over their kids day and night and those who cannot even talk about their children right now – it feels like we are alone, but we’re not. You’re not. I know my own piece of this place. I’m here too, and I’m walking next to you. You might not see me right now, but I’m here. Maybe one day we will find each other, and maybe that meeting will even be in a place where we can say “once my kid … but now …”
Even if not, we are not alone.
With much love,