Last night, my son… My beautiful, amazing, almost 13 year old son, had to learn about life the hard way. One of his best friends tried to kill herself. She’s an online friend and he only knows her first name and the state in which she lives so there was no way to check on her. They speak everyday. They have the kind of relationship where they can tell each other everything they’re going through. He was crushed and heartbroken. He was crying with the guilt of “I should have known” and “I’m always the calm one, why can’t I keep it together”.
Why do we live in a society where children, our babies, have to know the ugly sides of life? Why do we live in a world where our children, our babies, feel as though there is nothing for which to look forward? That at 12 years old, their lives are so bad that suicide feels like a legitimate alternative?
We’ve become a world full of selfish people who do not think about how our lives affect those around us. My son’s friend has an awful relationship with her parents. They do not seem to treat her with respect. They look at her as if she is someone to boss around with no feelings attached…. when they actually bother paying attention to her. I learned all of this last night simply by listening to my son work through the situation. And you know, I’ve heard it before. I heard it from kids when I was teaching. I also heard responses from other adults, dismissing these kids feelings as though they were silly teenagers that didn’t understand. Maybe so, but that’s a pivotal problem with the way we look at kids. They’re feelings are legitimate and, when we take the time to legitimize those feelings, it’s easier for kids to learn to process the feelings.
We look around the United States and wonder why kids are killing themselves and shooting up schools. I truly believe it comes down to allowing kids to have emotions. We need to take the time listen to what they’re feeling and realize that they feel everything we do. They just don’t have as many tools in their toolboxes to help them process and understand what they’re feeling.
My son and I sat for hours last night. I let him cry. I let him ask questions. I let him express his anger toward another friend in their group that was saying it was just for attention and she hadn’t really tried anything. We talked through what defense mechanisms are and how to deal with not knowing what was going on with his friend. We, as a society, need to start listening.
It doesn’t stop with kids. We need to listen to each other. We need to listen to ourselves. Emotions are the sentient way of processing the input around us. They are legitimate. They are important. They are what drives our reactions. Instead of trying to shove them into a corner and not let them affect our lives, we need to start letting ourselves and the people around us process what’s going on. We need to listen to each other. Let me say it again, WE NEED TO LISTEN TO EACH OTHER. We need to stop freaking out if a co-worker needs to cry. We need to stop feeling awkward if someone is having a bad day and, instead, take the time to ask questions… or even just sit with someone who is struggling.
Our society is broken. But, there’s hope. My son is currently on the phone with his friend. She’s apologizing for scaring him. He’s not mad. He’s not upset with her for making a decision that could take her away from him. He’s making sure she knows they all care about her. He’s helping her realize that there is hope. We all need to take a moment to learn from him.
Our society is broken… but it doesn’t have to stay that way.