I have found that the hardest part of being a parent is watching your child's heart hurt.
It took me a while to figure it out that this was the hardest part. I was fortunate to have several years of ignorant bliss. Not bliss as in everything was easy, but bliss in that what I thought was hard was just a tough phase. For a while, I thought the hardest thing was the lack of sleep. Eventually, I begrudgingly accepted the fact that I would likely never sleep again. Then what was hardest was trying to figure out what a crying child needed when they didn't know what they wanted and I couldn't figure it out either. Then the child becomes verbal and you realize tantrums are difficult. Month by month, what was hardest morphed into the next new phase.
Until, one day, I brought a weepy Atticus home from pre-school. I asked him what was wrong, and he explained that two little girls were being mean to him, having told him that quite simply, they did not like him and they never would.
"They hurt my heart!" he cried.
And that, my friends, nearly did me in. My heart ached to a degree that took my breath away. I could comfort with a hug and snuggle. I could speak loving, encouraging words. I could offer him possible ways to help fix the issue.
But, I could not fix his hurting heart.
That is a process one must do completely on one's own.
Watching your children live through hurt, hurts.
Tonight, I was reminded of that time long ago, as I dealt with a boy, a teen and a tween all nursing hurting hearts today.
Each have hurting hearts tonight. And in turn, I find myself with my own heart aching for each of them.
I walk to the elementary school every afternoon, to greet my lot of youngsters and walk home with them. Lots of nonstop talking about the day ensues from the moment they greet me on the playground blacktop, all the way to my front step.
Today I noticed Miles was unusually quiet. Upon asking him how his day was, his answer was short and simple: "Abdulahi moved away."
That statement hit me with great gravity. After two years of trying to find some 'nice' kids to hang with, Miles finally seemed to find just that special someone in his friend Abdulahi, a recent arrival to the U.S. from Somalia.
"Moved? As in away?"
"Yeah. To Minnesota. Today was his birthday, and we were going to celebrate it in class. But Ms. D. came up after lunch and said that his family called the office and said they were moving to Minnesota."
This happens a lot at our school. The abruptness in which so many of these children move make my head spin and my heart sad for the disruption present in so many of their young lives. Atticus had made a great friend too, who had moved here from California and was a new student this year. On Monday, the friend simply did not go to school, because the family moved to Chicago over the weekend.
I could see the tears welling Miles' eyes, and I could feel his heart hurting. And my heart hurts too, tremendously, for such a young boy who has had so much loss.
Miles expressed worry for his friend and the quick move. We talked about immigrants, and community, and how Minnesota has a large, supportive community of Somalians. Larger than Green Bay's.
That seemed to reassure him a bit, his frame of reference for understanding moves and new homes and new culture being so much larger and intuitive than my own.
Still, my heart breaks for my boy, who had finally found happiness in having a nice friend of his own.
After walking the kids home, I went brought Hatfield home from high school, and noticed some of her distress. A simple inquiry into what was bothering her had her dissolving in tears immediately. Life is changing, and relationships are changing, and she is hurting over troubles with a dear friend. Troubles that she had a large part in creating, although I don't think she realized it at the time.
Unfortunately, I remember what it was like to be in middle school and high school, so I understand that we are going to have night's like this, because, unfortunately, I remember my own night's like this. Yet, it's different too. Almost more complicated, really. Living in this age of texting-- when your children say things that they never would say in real life, and when it is so altogether too easy for them to interpret malice into a friend's simple words -- is complicated.
Helping your teen realize her own poor choices when she herself is not seeing them is--- well, it's an experience. I am not finding it intuitive--at all-- to determine when it is the time to be loving and supportive while letting her figure things out on her own, and when to help her face the reality that she may have made some very poor choices which created this heartache when the she believes it was the other person's fault and everything done to her was injustice.
Because at work (Holy Cow-- I work at a college now! I do! And I love it! I work in Student Judicial Affairs and love love LOVE my job! But more on that later), I tend to see one of two scenarios factoring into the background every kid I see in the conduct system: kids who were never taught how to take accountability for their choices, because they were raised to think they are the perfect one, so they think it is everyone else's fault but theirs. Or, kids who are never taught how to figure out anything on their own because Mom and Dad did it all, resulting in a super needy student so very unprepared for life.
Clearly, I don't want my children to enter adulthood on either end of that spectrum.
"What do you think you could have done differently?" I (gently) asked my daughter.
"I don't know," was the response 9 times out of 10.
So I would offer a scenario, and then say, "what do you think would have happened had you tried that?"
Tonight, that worked. It got her talking, and thinking. Opening her mind, and facing some tough realizations about her actions. After many tears and hugs, I had to attend to the other children. Yet when I left, she knew she had things to reconsider and work through.
A hurting heart being one of those things.
Silly as it may be, even at times like this, it hurts my heart to see my children hurt. Even when you know they are growing and learning. Even when you know these growing pains will help them grow into better people. Even when you know that it's just the way the world works (teens have been having drama for years.)
Even when you know that it is just a blip on the radar and it's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last, it still hurts.
My tween had a different sort of situation, but one in which he was hurting nonetheless. His is a less sticky issue by far, but still, one in which he has to step outside of his comfort zone and learn a different way to effectively communicate his feelings and needs. For one of the first times, he is having to evaluate a situation, determine why he feels a certain way, and then see if the expectations being placed upon him are helping or hurting him. I feel his anxiety about it, his not wanting to disappoint others, yet his knowing an internal alarm is sounding. I wish I could absorb it all, but yet, I know this is a great growing moment.
As I type these thoughts, I realize that I have decades of this to come. I am nearly 40, and I know my dear mother hurts when I hurt. I think of all the situations that my siblings and myself found ourselves in, and still find ourselves in, and I realize just how much hurt she has had to carry and process along the years.
Holy hell, we were and still are trainwrecks half the time. How my mother is still standing, I'm not sure.
Maybe I'm too sensitive. After all, we were blessed in having skipped the middle school drama trauma with Hatfield because of homeschool. I never really had my chance to toughen up.
The small person who will give me those chances is lying just to my left. All the while I'm writing, Paloma, curled up in bed next to me, reading while I type away, just announced, "I am so cozy I feel that goodness is attacking me."
Now, just yesterday, while sitting on
the bathroom floor, leaning over the toilet in anticipation of throwing
up (Paloma has been very sick with the stomach flu), Paloma wailed: "Please turn off the music!The radio is
Wow. Attacking Goodness and Distressing Radios, and she's only 8. I have a feeling that no matter what situations my older children may find themselves in, it's gonna be nuthin' compared to what I'm going to see with the Mighty Miss Po. That girl may be little, but she Thinks Big and Feels Bigger. This Mama would do best to toughen up for that little one.
(That is, if I haven't died of heart failure when Keenan manages to finagle some kid into letting him drive their motorcycle before he even has a license. Because I'm pretty sure my boy is working on such a plan every night before he falls asleep ;)