Kids, the hard parts of mothering teens

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 😛

3ca764aeae78dd7183bdde88ab8ad9c3So 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.

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6 thoughts on “Kids, the hard parts of mothering teens”

  1. It is so great you can talk freely about these things to your son, and you handled the whole situation very well. I feel like my parents are so close minded, I’ve tried discussing depression with my parents but they just say it is wrong and is weak.

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    1. A friend of mine visited the other day, the day after news of Robin Williams having passed away broke. I knew my son had experienced this passing of his friend assumed to be due to depression too so I had been sensitively handling the topic. My friend was saying things like “I have no sympathy” “How can you have so much and not want to live, it’s selfish” and I kept politely asking her to not talk like that around my son as it was a very sensitive issue at the moment. In the end I snapped and said “depression is not just feeling a bit sad and sorry for yourself, depression is a mental illness, nobody expects anyone to snap out of cancer or to get over Parkinsons, I’m guessing at the time he did this he was not feeling like a privileged person, he was feeling that the world would be better without him and he would be better without the world, there is a disassociation with reality, there is no thought to those left behind because you feel you are not good enough for them anyway and in that way yes it may be selfish, but I doubt he wanted anyone’s sympathy, I imagine he’d had plenty of that and it had hurt him to even need it. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted your sympathy as you are a stranger and the love of the people he cared about was not enough to save him because he felt useless to them so keep your opinion to yourself.” I was so annoyed. I don’t want my son to grow up thinking that depression is having a bad day, I want him to understand the illness that it is, the way we don’t get how to treat it yet because we don’t fully understand it yet, we mask it with drugs or we underestimate it, that’s about as good as it gets. Counselling is not enough, it is not provided in a timely manner, it can’t be or else we’d need counselors who can come and seek out people who are in need of them (depressed people don’t like to ask for help) and sit with them sometimes for hours and hours and listen and understand and with the best will in the world even then if they can do that they can’t do much, healing has to come from within and who knows what sparks off the strength to self heal? Depression isn’t weak, I’m the least weak person you could meet and I’ve suffered with depression. I like the saying that “depression is not a sign of weakness it is a sign that you have had to be strong for too long”.

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    1. Thank you, we never know if we get it right. I think we just have to keep that openness alive and well as long as possible, forever if we can. It’s so easy to become distant from kids as they get older, I mean emotionally, I think as an adult I see that it’s my responsibility to keep those channels of communication operational and to notice if things are in need of a tweak.

      I’m so proud of his sensitivity, compassion and humanity, he cares deeply for and about others but that means that he takes on some of the strains of those who confide in him and he needs an outlet for that, he needs me to be able to help him offload and make sense of it all at times.

      He’s happier now, back to normal, got it out of his system and no doubt feeling loved and confident and really looking forward to spending time at his sister’s place and being spoiled rotten again.

      Thank you for your comments, it’s always good to hear we’re not as useless at this parenting thing as we often feel we are 😀

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  2. You handled things really well! 🙂 Depression and suicide are difficult topics to discuss. They hit all too close to home in our household. My youngest has type 2 bipolar disorder that is characterized by deep, almost catatonic, depressions, and my husband’s brother committed suicide several years ago. Fortunately, my daughter is healthy and well with medication, but we’ve certainly had many family discussions about depression and suicide prevention. My heart aches for people who don’t have that support.

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    1. It must be so difficult for you but sounds like you are doing well 😀 I think we often teach our kids and ourselves to be strong and pull through and we rarely say it’s fine to not be strong, to fall to pieces and ask for help and provide a safe environment for them to do that where they will not be judged or mocked just loved and supported. Thank you for you comments x

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