My son was quite upset tonight. He doesn’t need to tell me, I can sense it, a glance, just the way he holds himself, a tiny change in behaviour. I asked if he wanted a cuddle and he said no, that was sure sign that I was right, he never turns down cuddles unless he’s upset and worried a cuddle will turn into tears – he’s nearly a man don’t ya know 😛
So I left him a moment and then went to his room, he was lying on his bed, a worried look furrowing his otherwise smooth brow, a movie on his TV (he never watches movies in his room he’s very sociable and loves to sit and watch in the lounge with someone) and I climbed onto his bed next to him (I’m still allowed to do this but don’t tell anyone) and noticed he had his favourite teddy from when he was born, all raggy and worn and loved to shreds under his arm and I definitely knew then that my hunch was right. I saw this near six foot, strapping ‘bloke’ as my baby and I hugged him up tight and he had some tears and without a word from me he told me that he just didn’t get dying, why it had to happen and why good people die or how people can be so sad that they just don’t want to live and why couldn’t anybody just love them? It all tumbled out and I was glad I’d noticed the signs and that it all flowed so freely in the safety and comfort of the moment.
It broke my heart but I’m mum so I have to keep it together and come up with the answers. I ran my fingers through that gorgeous silky curly hair of his, snuggled him up and I gave him my take on it all and saw an opportunity to guide him by telling him that some people just feel they can’t talk to anyone, kids often feel (wrongly) that if they tell their parents they are struggling they will make life harder for their parents (the kid who took his life’s mum died of cancer), they don’t want to seem weak, they might not have a strong relationship where talking is easy, they may not feel able to break through their surviving parent’s grief, they may take literally what people say that they are strong and brave or that they have to look after their surviving parent or their little sibling yet feel ill equipped to do, they may not want to admit they miss their mum, it might all seem too sissy for a teenage boy to want his mum.
I told him about mental illness and depression and how it stops people from thinking rationally, they are in such turmoil and pain they can’t find a release, they don’t think there is a release, nobody can help them. I reminded him that he does have a strong relationship with me and he doesn’t have to worry about talking to me yet tonight he felt sad and made out like he didn’t need a hug when he really did and he was just feeling a little sad, not depressed. I told him that he should always know that no matter what is happening in our lives, my life, his life, the world, that he can always get a hug, he can always talk to me or to his sister, in person on the phone however he needs us. I begged him never to feel that we wouldn’t be able to help him and reassured him of how precious life is and how much we love him.
These are the bits of being a mum I don’t like, where you don’t feel very good at it, where you don’t know what to say, where you take on their sorrow and it hurts you probably ten times more than it hurts them. Where the possibility of losing them hits you when one of their apparently happy, adjusted age mates passes away. I was glad that I’ve taught my kids to let their angst go, to let their questions out, to talk, to find answers, to make sense. But I was also reminded of how important it is to keep your teens close, to watch them, make sure you know them, look for signs that they are struggling with anything and give them the space and love to open up, the closest of parent/child relationships can sometimes leave a space for something bad to creep in. Sometimes no matter how big they seem, how cool they want to be, they just need you to notice they need you.