I believe it is easier to whisper scary truths in the dark.
This past year has been an exceptionally challenging year for me and I am particularly exhausted. I have let go of the good night routine with my kids in exchange to get one more thing done. I am not proud of that, but it’s real.
On top of that, my family had an emotional week, and I know my kids were sad about school being done. There has been this simmering emotional tension that has has laced our time and come to head in arguments and poor choices.
Last night felt particularly heavy. Those moments where you “just know” the vibe in your house is off because your intuition is resonating with the current around you.
I went upstairs and laid down with my oldest who had the worst week out of all of us. I asked, “How are you?” The answer, “I’m fine”. (I find there is a balance in forcing someone to talk to me, or letting them lie to me when I know it's not true. When do you push? When do you release it?) I tried another question and if I got denied again, I would just offer my time and silence.
Laying in the dark with the sun setting I asked, "What's something you wish people knew about you that they don't?"
A moment of quiet, then as I looked in my son's eyes, they were welling with unshed tears that started to pour out of him. The confessions of his struggle in school, of feeling like two different people, of being lonely and his gifts not being seen, his struggle with anger and overwhelming sadness that he couldn't quite articulate. He talked. I listened. He cried and cried and encouraged him not to stop. To feel all the things. I explained that when we stop tears from coming, those emotions get blocked in our body and there is nowhere for them to go. When we release them in tears, we are able to fully feel them, we can see them for what they are. Once the emotions are out, and we say all the things we aren't supposed to say in the dark, we see ourselves more fully. We can recognize and name what our pain is, so we can start to understand it.
It was in the dark that truth comes to light when we are brave enough to speak them, knowing someone is listening. I spent more minutes with my son. I brushed back his hair as he laid there, and told him I was thankful to know the deep and welling things in his spirit. That I would hold those gently and remember that while he looks happy and is playing with his friends, I will know what simmers below and keep checking in on him.
While I was with my oldest, Paul was with our youngest. It is often the case in our home that our oldest and youngest require more attention. This truth stood out to me profoundly last night as I while I was with my oldest, my middle was cleaning his room the whole time. (They share a loft space room in the attic of our home.) I went over to lay with my middle son, starting to feel anxious because this bed time routine is taking an increasingly long time and I was anxious to get back downstairs and celebrate mine and Paul's anniversary with dinner.
But my conscious knew, he needed me.
I went and laid down with my middle kid and wrapped my arms around him. "Hey, how are you? Today was a big day. You're all done with 5th grade!"
"I'm OK. I have wanted to cry since 2pm but I have four strategies I do when I want to ignore my feelings. First, I clean. It makes me feel better. Second, I get angry because its easier than feeling sad. Third, I read so I can be in someone else's story. And fourth, I don't remember what it is but that I have one....
This was my favorite year of school and I am so sad because I really miss my friends already."
And his body started to shake with sobs.
First, can we take a hot second and reflect on the fact that my 11 year old has a strategy for dealing or at the very least understanding when his emotions are taking over? I mean, is this normal? I don't really remember being that self aware at that age. This kid astounds me at every turn.
I laid there, listening to the echo's of my oldest as he calmed himself down, holding my middle while he embraced his turmoil. The air was thick and heavy with sadness and awareness.
I'm gonna stop the story here, because yes, I did go and check in my youngest and did the same routine and then reappeared to anniversary dinner where Paul and debriefed all the emotions and things and how to show up for our children and guide them through self awareness and care.
But here is what stood out to me. In light of the tragic public deaths of two people who were struggling so much they believed taking their own life was the only answer, I had to take that and the knowledge that there are so many more that go unnoticed, what is my role in this? For myself, my family, my people and those who I do life with?
I have not plugged into my children's lives as I used to, and last night was profound evidence that in order to save my children, and/or give them the tools to self evaluate, I NEED to be with them. At the fun things, in the moments to celebrate, but more importantly in the dark where they can speak the hard truths in order to not have to carry them alone.
We need to be asking the real questions. Creative questions in order to get to the place that simmers under our skin. "How are you?" isn't going to cut it.
Self awareness and teaching ourselves and our children how to self evaluate and find tools to navigate their emotions and choices is probably the best thing I can do for them and myself as their mother. I won't always be there to lay in the dark with them.
We try so hard to limit screen time with the education and teaching of plugging back into the realness of life. The people, the earth, ourselves. Moments to unplug and recharge from the source of life, connection.
There will always be one more thing "to do". We (read me) need to pause and be with one another. Nothing is worth loosing each other over. There will never be enough time to do all the things I or you want to do, but we will run out of time to be with the people who matter to us. I have been deeply convicted to realign myself and my priorities.
This is not the answer. This may not be your solution. But as a mother who mourned with a country for people who have taken their lives, and then bore witness to the emotional struggle of the people in her own life, I have to ask, "What is my role in this? How do I show up in my fullness in this?"
Hug your babies.
Hug your people.
Train your eyes to see below the surface.
Pay attention. Ask questions. Get invested. Make sacrifices.
Speak your truth in the dark to someone who is listening.
Listen to someone speak their truth in the dark.
And Love. Always choose love that shows up in powerful and dynamic ways.
Be gentle with each other family. Life is challenging.