For most parents and people in general, this week has passed as a blurry continuation of last Friday’s unprecedented catastrophe, and I find myself stuck in a fog. Like so many others, I grapple with many issues at once: how to explain the cruel realities of the world in terms my kids will understand and how to convince myself that staring too long at white teenaged strangers isn’t a result of post-traumatic paranoia.
Truth be told, as harsh as it sounds, life goes on for the living. Routines and rituals must remain in place. They provide security and breed familiarity. Especially for our children. And especially during times like these. Kids must be allowed to (continue) to fret over the frivolous and bemoan the mundane like fighting with their siblings over a cookie shortage and riding the electric scooter.
At our home, we address the heavy stuff, the big meaning-of-life stuff, as we strive to put last week’s gruesome tragedy into perspective. Each day we take a few solemn moments to reflect on what’s happened and share how it’s affecting us and our own communities. We also put ourselves in the survivors’ shoes. We feel their loss. And naturally, this always leads us to confirm how fortunate we are to be alive and have each other to kiss goodnight. We recognize the fragility of life. And how everything can change in an instant.
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For our gang it’s now time to move forward and seek purpose in what we do in the future. As Josh Shipp, the Teen Whisperer says, “We must find a message in the mess.”
As a mother, my takeaway from what’s transpiring in our increasingly sick and isolationist society is the overriding danger of losing touch with our kids as they slip into pre-adolescence. Certainly, we all lead hectic lives where multitasking is the way the world functions, the modern MO. And although we “see” our children everyday if they live with us, I wonder if we really “see” what’s going on inside their worlds, aka their own befuddled minds?
Look: if your kids are still babies and toddlers, you’re lucky. They probably prattle on for hours about their day and will tell you most anything you want to know. They aren’t languishing, for 45th time, the embarrassing armpit moment in gym class. They’re still somewhat malleable. Simple. “Small children, small problems” my girlfriend’s mom always says.
But as time marches on, these adorable toddlers transform into hormone-raging tweens with little resemblance to the helpless wrinkled creatures we birthed years ago. Recently, we had an "incident" with our tween. It was something that could have spiraled wildly out of control. Yet thankfully, after many, many hours of laser-focus, I was able to nip it in the bud and help my child get back on track. We got lucky. And so can you.
The bottom line is this: we must be relentless in our pursuits to keep the lines of communication open. As parents, we need to realize that our number one responsibility in today's unstable world is to provide that emotional stability, consistency and structure our kids crave. And if we know their patterns, because we really “see” them, decoding their silent, oftentimes cryptic cries for help won’t be too tough. For if we don’t fight to stay engaged, they’ll slip away. And then it may be too late.
Find me here.