Several weeks ago I took a hiatus from writing about parenting. My own family life was challenging me so much I found it hard to make sense of anything. I thought it would be best to take a break from giving anything like advice to other parents.
Just a couple of weeks later, as we were maybe beginning to find a tiny bit of family balance--or at least a way to get through our days without being cruel to one another--something terrible happened. Something unbelievably sad and confusing. Something that took the winds right out of our sails. All of us: me, my husband, and our two teenaged sons.
A young man for whom we cared died. He was a former student--one of those rare kids who keeps in touch with his high-school English teacher and finds a way into the hearts of her family and friends. Our boys called him the big brother they wish they had. I spent a good twelve hours thinking perhaps I could avoid telling my kids the unhappy truth, because forming the words seemed utterly impossible.
Of course we told them, and the complicated process of grieving a senseless death began. We know (intellectually) how valuable difficult times can be. We know this is an opportunity to learn lessons, to change our lives, to help our children face adversity and overcome. But it feels just awful.
On one hand, I know it's a chance to teach my children how to grieve--grace under pressure and all that. On the other hand, I'm a bloody mess. Trying to mitigate the extremes of my own emotions, while guiding my family through theirs, leaves me flat-out exhausted.
There have been moments of grace, of course. The crazy world works like that, and I believe above all in the importance of finding silver linings in every cloud. But my God, it's hard to keep going. It's hard to put one foot in front of the other. It's impossible to understand. I keep thinking we must be talking about someone else, even though I attended the funeral and watched his casket sink into the earth.
I will write more about this child we have lost, because in many ways my time with him and his parents was the seed--six years ago--that blossomed into the Beyond Mama Bear project. For now, I shall again attempt to write about parenting. It will come in fits and starts (and I will devote July to getting the book to print), for which I hope you will forgive me.
My message has been altered--in ways I will struggle with, I'm sure--but one thing is clear to me now more than ever: we need each other. Raising our children takes a village, all right, and it takes super-human strength and grit and tenacity. It takes forgiveness--of our children but most of all, of ourselves--and it will challenge everything we believe.
I hope you will join me. I'm asking everyone I know to subscribe to my email list, in the hopes of gathering some collective wisdom. This parenting-of-adolescents thing is a burden too great to shoulder alone. Together, we can find ways to really connect with our teenagers. We can share stories and insights, and I promise you, we can make a difference.
As always--in spite of things, in a broken world, in the valley of tears, against all odds, full of hope--we all shine on.