Within the first few days, the panic starts to set in that summer is almost over and an urgency develops. We need to do this or that, go here or there, do all the things we set out to do back in May when we were full of optimism and planning, back before the pajamas and sleeping in really took hold. The urgency turns to dread as the days on the calendar tick off, each one closer to the beginning of schedules and lunch making and alarms and obligations.
We take a brief break for a birthday celebration, then chaos descends.
The first day finally arrives, with its insistence that we adjust immediately. Except that we don't. We never have. We probably never will, for as long as we have children in this house in school of any kind.
We have these lofty aspirations to be people who adapt seamlessly to change, but we aren't those people and we almost certainly never will be those people.
The back end of August is always like this, filled with frustration and anxiety and sleep deprivation.
We get on each other's nerves, all of us.
This week, one of my children, who shall remain nameless for these purposes, hit the proverbial wall. The changes too many, the adjustments not immediate, the emotions all over the place, the demands of getting older and having more expectations placed upon them too much. It was all just too much.
This kid hit the wall, much like I do when I hit it, in a spectacular collapse of emotions.
First there was yelling. Projecting. Lashing out. Then the tears.
Tears, the dry heaving variety.
And it all came out.
In that moment, I was so grateful that my kids see me as the safe dumping ground....even if that means that I'm blamed for far too many other things I can't control all the other times.
My lap will never be too small, not in those moments.
After it all came out, a few days after, I asked this one how they were doing now. Were things better? Encouraged this particular child to come to me before hitting the wall if possible, to let the frustrations out in pieces when they come, so that they don't boil over, spilling onto everyone around them.
(I'm far better at giving this advice than following it, I know.)
I don't talk about it because I know that my emotions have to come after everyone else.
Knocked me back, that particular set of words strung together, uttered by this child of mine.
Because I know where this comes from.
This whole idea of stuffing your emotions down so that you can do whatever needs to be done for whoever else needs it at that moment.
I know exactly where that comes from.
I know that the tendency to ignore what is bothering them, to tell those emotions to get back in the box....that comes from both of us, their father and I.
Our children, they come by this honestly.
Because they come by it honestly, from an origin so deeply organic and entrenched not just in who they are, but in who we are, it is our obligation as parents to make sure that they understand just how unhealthy this can be.
Ignoring your own emotions, your feelings, your mental health, dismissing it, disavowing how much it impacts you, stuffing it down....it is a seductive short term solution that never makes things better. It sounds great because it works well right now. In the immediate period.
But you'll always, always, always hit that proverbial wall.
And it might not just be yourself that you are running into that wall at full speed by the time you hit it...by then, you could absolutely be dragging other people along with you.
How odd it is that a coping mechanism so often designed to put others first and suppress emotions can end up resulting in even more harm?
We're so terribly complicated.
I told this child, in no uncertain terms, devoid of a hint of sarcasm, in the realest way possible, that their first priority in this world has to be self preservation. Do not sacrifice yourself at the altar of other people's needs. Do not do this.
No one else is going to take care of you first.
No one else is going to put your emotional well being first.
No one else is going to worry about you before they worry about themselves.
Not boyfriends or girlfriends.
The only possible exception to this would be parents, and even then it's far from an absolute. Some parents put the needs of their children before their emotions. Some don't.
It's a hard lesson to learn in life. One I've learned over and over and over again and I know to be the truth, even if I have so desperately wanted to be wrong.
When I was done speaking, the look of shock on my child's face told me that I'd really rocked them to their core.
It's not every day that you're forced to erode a bit of your child's faith in humanity...
I don't want to be the bearer of bad news.
I'd rather be able to tell them that you can rely on people to look out for you.
I'd rather be able to tell them that your friends will always have your back.
I'd rather be able to tell them that no one will ever lie to you or break your heart.
I'd rather be able to tell them that you can trust other people with your emotional well-being.
I just know it's not the truth.
And I can't lie to them.
Even if I really, really, really want to.
The hardest lessons to teach are the most important ones.
teach them anyway