I had exactly two parenting fails today. Both involving Rachel. She called me from school, after experiencing a “traumatic” event. Apparently someone passed out during PE, and Rachel was on the front lines. She felt the need to go home after this. When she called to tell me about it I said something like, “Well you didn’t pass out, so why do you need to go home?” She hung up on me. When I called her back she said something like, “this was really scary, and you are the first person I called because I thought you would understand.” Ouch. It turns out she was the one who found the convulsing girl. The first on the scene. She had to run and get a defibrillator and then stand by. She had to watch as the paramedics rushed the scene. The girl who passed out is ok. Rachel is not. She said it brought back a lot of feelings she was having when her friend died earlier in the year. Which totally makes sense. I missed the significance on the first go around.
When I was growing up, if I had any ailment from a fever to a broken heart, my mom’s prescription was to drink a glass of water and go for a walk. There was no room for dramatics with my mother. You felt things, you dealt with it, you moved on. Nothing was urgent. Nothing was life-threatening. Nothing was worth getting mad or sad about. I wonder if this was a result of having a lot of kids in a very short period of time. Or maybe a result of her own relatively traumatic upbringing. Nearly all of my childhood discomforts were truly nothing serious, so she probably most likely knew what she was doing. My mom was caring. My mom was affectionate. She tucked me in every night when I was young. She asked me about my day. She listened to my endless chatter about this or that. She cared about me and my siblings. There was not one moment in my entire upbringing that I did not feel loved. But she had no patience for dramatics. And I learned quickly to swallow down all the drama.
A few months back, my ex-husband and I took Carson and Emmy to California for Emmy’s gymnastics competition. We left Rachel and Lilly at home to fend for themselves. They insisted they would be fine for the two days. They are both teenagers. They are good teenagers. Perfectly capable of handling themselves for a couple of days. I had absolutely no fear of parties or boys or drugs. My only real concern was school. Lilly would make it to her classes no problem. But Rachel has a tendency to find a reason not to go to school. A headache, a stomachache, a hard time sleeping the night before. That girl will do anything to get out of going. Without either parent home to cajole her, I was pretty sure she would find a way to skip. Sure enough, Sunday night she called us with a sob story about how sick she was. She was convinced she had Covid. We were coming home the next day. I told her she had two choices. She could go to school, and if she ended up having Covid, I would give her $50. Or she could stay home. If she ended up not having Covid, she would owe me $50. She went to school. And ended up calling my dad to bring her home. I gave her the promised Covid test when we got home. It was positive. Oops. She has of course, not let me live this down. Maybe I should have given my little wolf-cryer the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I should not have taken the drink some water and go for a walk approach. Who is to know?
A classmate of mine died my sophomore year of high school. She was skiing in Utah, and on the way back to Boise, her dad hit some black ice. He walked away unscathed. She was partially ejected from the car and died on the scene. This was their only child. It devastated them. I was not close to her or her family. But her death rocked my world. The next few months were the closest to clinical depression I have ever come. I cried a lot. I felt empty and unhappy. I brought it up. I asked for help. At the time I felt dismissed. But I did move past it, so I don’t know.
Rachel lost someone she was actually close to. She is still reeling. Am I to take the “be tough as nails” approach and hand her a glass of water? Or does she need more? I DON’T KNOW. If you know, help a girl out.
My second parenting fail came the night of the girl passing out incident. The kids were with their dad. I saw them all briefly after school, before they headed to his house. I gave Rachel a hug and sat with her for a few minutes. Rachel is depressed. Or dealing with depression and anxiety (she has given me permission to write about this). One of the features of her depression is a difficulty with self-care. She has a hard time eating, moving, showering. When she does eat, it’s not great food. The other day at 10pm she DoorDashed a Big Mac, complete with a large fry and Dr Pepper. By 10:30 she had eaten the whole thing and totally zonked out. I personally cannot even look at caffein after 3pm, or I will be up all night. I let her do it. I wonder if that was the right move.
Rachel will stay in her bed indefinitely if she has no reason to get out of it. She always looks and smells great, but she will often go days without showering. She just cannot bring herself to do it. It breaks my heart. I know showering, eating well, moving will make her feel better. But how hard do you push a nearly adult?
Before she left for her dad’s house, I told her I thought a shower or a bath would be a good idea. It had clearly been a few days. She said she was tired and probably wouldn’t. I called her dad and suggested that he gently encourage her to bathe. The encouragement he gave turned into a fight and she called me in tears. She said something along the lines of “why can’t you just leave me alone and let me deal with this??” My interfering only made things worse. I should have backed off. I should have let her deal with her demons on her own. Right? Right?
I am not a dramatic person. I may have been a little dramatic in my younger years. My best friend Katie Hurd and I were always in some sort of fight. Every little thing that happened during my childhood was a big deal to me. But I have grown up to be a person who avoids drama to the extreme. I will do nearly anything to keep from dealing with an uncomfortable situation. I will edit myself, sensor myself. I will soothe, I will talk and talk in hopes of making sure everyone in my orbit is comfortable. Anything to avoid a difficult conversation. Anything to avoid the drama. I will wring my hands and fidget until I have fixed any unhappiness anyone around me is feeling.
This personality trait has served me well for the most part. I am agreeable. I am easy to be around. I am rarely difficult. But there are times I wish I could be angry. There are times I desperately wish I could stand my ground. I wish I could scream at people when things are not ok. I wish I could share my opinion with people who disagree with me on controversial topics. I wish I could push things over and throw a fit when it all becomes too much. Sometimes I just wish I could just give up and lie down, wherever I am, and let the world go by. But I don’t. And I won’t. I will keep being agreeable. I will keep avoiding the drama
I am probably dealing with my own little bit of depression. Which is new for me.
Shortly after my divorce, I had a lot of self-loathing. For the first time in my life I doubted the person I was. I engaged in some self-harm that I am not proud of. Self-harm I felt I was too old to be engaging with. It was an extremely difficult period of my life. But like everything else, I have swallowed it down. I drink my water. I do my workouts. I forge ahead.
I’m ok. Everything is ok. I will be alright in the end. This is my mantra. And I believe it. Usually. It is the same mantra I give my children. My child. My life is good. Their life is good. But often I am sad. Often I am overwhelmed. I worry it will always be just so hard. I worry it will not all end up ok.
When these feelings arise, and I don’t know what to do with them, I don’t drink my water. I don’t take a walk. I just call my mom.
One response to “Call Your Mom”
Boy I relate to the forging ahead. I work at being happy, something that for so many years came to me as naturally as breathing—even when life was hard. Because I had my family.
As for a kiddo with anxiety and depression that’s both of my book-end kids. Just love them more. Let them know you are always their mom, their safe place. Eventually they shower. Eventually all the patience and talks get through and they start figuring it out. That’s a beautiful thing to watch. You are a really great mom. Love you so much!💗
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