Thursday / March 08 / 2012
When your kids call you on your sadness
“What’s wrong, Mom?” Aaaaahhh, a question with which I’m all too familiar. Perhaps I’ve become more sensitive to the inquiry since I started dealing with depression. But even before I came to fisticuffs with the illness, I was reticent to be fully vulnerable with my babes. But why?
Does anyone else struggle with this? In a time when children want nothing more than to be heard, understood, and included, why do we push them away with regards to the depths of our own emotions during difficult times?
As I consider all the perceptive times my children queried about what was bothering me, I realize my penchant was to put on a brave face in some sort of veiled attempt to protect them. But protect them from what?
Pretending “nothing’s wrong” simply doesn’t work with those who love you most, no matter how old they are. Kids are simply way too perceptive.
By proclaiming “nothing’s wrong”, we instill in our children:
- You should push raw emotions aside. Translation: suck it up… fake it if you have to.
- You should share with me and I will always be here to help bandage your metaphoric skinned knees. However, I don’t trust you enough to share my feelings with you.
- Do what I say and not what I do. (ouch)
- If something in life causes you pain and you respond by being upset, saddened, or disappointed — there must be something wrong with you.
I’ve learned to share more of what’s really going on in my life with my children (read: I’ve forced myself because I believe it will pay dividends for their futures). As challenging as it’s been to be vulnerable with the ones I raised, I’ve also found it to be a lot more freeing than I’d imagined.
Don’t get me wrong — it hasn’t been easy. And truthfully, I still find myself wanting them to live without worry for me. But as they’ve explained to me, they care for me just as much as I care for them.
I’ve learned I don’t need to be a solid rock for my kids. [PS… they know I’m not anyway.] Why did I ever think I was fooling them? Rather, I need to be a rock like the one you see in the picture above from Rockwell Falls in Hadley, New York — one lined with crevices, deep and shallow, put there by the variety of life, surrounded by other rocks of varying sizes, and the effects of plant life — both living and dead.
By sharing my own times of struggling for breath under rushing waters, I’ve been able to legitimately bestow strength, confidence, and readiness in my children to face their own rivers of uncertainty.
I will add the caveat here that our children are always our children and we should not burden them with all our drama. They aren’t pocket-sized Dr. Phils. They are little, mid-sized, or grown-up human beings — just like us. They don’t want to hear our ails every single time they talk with us. They simply want honesty… to know we’re human — just like them.