Tomorrow is a New Day {parenting kids who struggle}

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We walked into the parent-teacher conference today and were greeted with a sweet hello. Soon after, their faces turned grim.

“Has (this child) always been withdrawn?”

“Has (this child) struggled before?”

My husband and I did our best to answer their questions. To be honest, I felt like I was on the defensive. It was awkward. Most of all, it broke my heart. We didn’t have the same challenges that our kids do. We both did well in school, had friends and were active in various sports, etc. I’m sure our parents never had the type of parent-teacher conference that we had.

“It might be best to talk to (child’s) doctor about medication changes.”

“(This child) cannot make eye contact.”

“The issues you are describing can be a much bigger issue than what is known. You really need to talk to the doctor.”

“Has your child always struggled with interacting with others and with grades?”

As a parent to children who struggle, it takes a lot of restraint to NOT scream: “This is NOT all my child is about! My child is kind, wants to help others, and loves (his/her) family!!!”

However, at the end of the day, my husband and I know that our children must fit into this world. The world is not going to fit around them. And, to be honest, that sucks. There, I said it.

The misconception that “if you get a child as an infant, then the child will be okay“, just needs to stop. We got our children as babies. We tended to their needs. We celebrated their milestones and giggled at their curiosities. We did the best we could; like most parents do.

While all that helps, it does not (always) erase the problems that some children have. Instead, my husband and I must do the best we can…at this time…given the circumstances that present themselves.

To be honest, today was just a sad day for me. I wish I could just snap my fingers and all of these Earthly challenges would evaporate. I so wish I could exchange my children’s struggles for my own successes – to give them a life without diagnoses, social challenges and academic strife. Yet, in all of this…in all the daily junk…I know full well that the Lord has given me the exact children I am meant to parent. I know this, even on the hard days.

Parenting looks a whole lot different that I visualized it to be. My husband and I wonder what it would be like to be able to go out in the evening with our kids and not worry about meltdowns. We think about going to parent-teacher conferences and hearing, “You child is just the best student ever.” We long for our children to be given certificates and acknowledgments for being ‘good’. Yet, we also know that this is not the parenting journey that we are on. For me, my faith in Christ is what keeps me going. I know that Jesus hasn’t brought us this far to drop us on our heads. (My friend used to tell me this all of the time.) I believe it.

Today was rough. It’s not like any day is easy. The one hope that a parent with a child who struggles has is for their child to be understood and to have a life-changing breakthrough. When this doesn’t seem to be happening, it can surely dampen the situation, but it can never distinguish the power of parents whose entire world exists to create a better place for their children.

If you know a parent of a child who struggles, the best thing you can do is understand them, love on them and support them. Be a non-judgmental ear for them to pour their angst into. They know you can’t fix the issue, but they also know that just having someone who listens to them is vital. Let them cry to you. Allow them to tell you their story – even if they have to do it time and again.

If you are a parent of a child who struggles, please know that you are not alone. Seek out people who will listen to you. Don’t give up.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

Yearning for Change

I have to admit that I was anxious about taking my son to school today.  I just wanted to grab him and run back out of the building, or stay with him all day.  I prolonged our usual walk to the cafeteria where he goes before school starts.  I hugged him once, went back for a second and third hug, and then turned around and hugged him for the fourth time while whispering in his ear that I love him.

For the first time today, I gave second glances to people I have not seen before in the school.  I noticed how many doors there were, and wondered if they were locked.  I imagined where my little boy would hide if he needed to.  I wanted to ask about school security, evacuation plans, etc, but, I could tell the principal and teachers were all probably preoccupied with the same emotional anxiety that I was feeling.

I’m not the only one who felt this way today.  Most of the mom’s I spoke to were ready for the hour to come when school was let out.  I was anxious to pick him up, embrace him, and get him in my car.  I kept up a quick pace from my car to the door, and just couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on him.  After seeing him sitting there in line waiting for me to get him, my pace quickened, I called his name, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders while walking him out.  He sort of gave me that “uh..mom…?” look, but I didn’t care.  I wanted him out of the building, and back in the warm secure place that we call home.

I’m struggling a bit to not write about the shooting tragedy, or to keep it out of my mind.  This shooting is no less tragic or no more tragic than any other violent act in our country, but this one…this one cuts right into the heart of us all.  Perhaps, it is the age of the sweet babies killed, the way it happened, the lack of security in our school systems, or the lack of professional, affordable mental health services.  Or, perhaps, and I say this with caution, it is the plethora of available weaponry on our streets.  Maybe, it is all of these things combined.

As a professional in the field of social work, I have worked with mentally ill adults and children.  I have worked with at-risk youth, adolescent sexual perpetrators, and drug addicts.  I have tracked down homeless people, or those with-whom society doesn’t care about.  I have been cursed at and threatened by angry clients.  I even had a somewhat mentally unstable man, high on pain killers, pull a handgun from behind his back and show it to me while I was doing a routine well-being check on him.

When I was a new case worker, I was told that I should step aside when I knocked on the door of a potentially angry client so that if the person shot at me, he or she would miss.  I was also told to always know where my exits are, and to never turn my back on someone.  Just last week I read an article about a young social worker who was chased down after a home visit, and brutally stabbed to death by a mentally unstable client.

I keep hearing all this talk about “changing the way things are done”.  If politicians really want to understand persons with mental health problems, at-risk youth, or the desperate struggles of parents and the “system” trying to heal and help these folks, then I think they should join us in the field sometime.  I think they should have to listen to the screaming and cussing phone messages of angry clients left on voice machines.  I think they should have to assist in finding a home for a youth who has severe mental health issues with violent tendencies.  I think they should have to accompany parents who struggle to get their children the help they need because of lack of funding.

I say all of this to not lay blame for what occurred, or to turn this into a political issue.  I don’t want to believe that this is only a gun issue either.  It is an issue of a young man who may or may not have gotten the help he needed.  It is an issue of a  mother who most likely desperately struggled raising a troubled son.  It is an issue of young persons slipping through the cracks, and desperately needed funding being slashed.  It is an issue of safety in our schools.  This is also an issue of the heart, and the lack of empathy or understanding for those on the outside of what is deemed as socially acceptable.

I think those in charge of writing policies, adding or cutting funding, and lobbying so passionately for what they believe in, should join social workers, teachers, counselors, and parents as they work tirelessly to fix the most complicated of problems.  I’m certainly not an expert on mental health, gun laws, and politics.  I’m just a mom who fears that my children are growing up in a less safe and more complicated world that I grew up in.  I’m a mom who wants people that need help to get help.  I’m a mom who yearns for real change, the kind that creates a world that is more loving, and accepting of others, to happen.  The ones who lost their lives last week deserve for us all to ponder carefully on these issues with sensitive hearts and open minds.

Our children, and our children’s children, deserve it as well.