When I got the phone call this morning, my first thought was that the kiddo had been in an accident. He's only been driving a month and while he always texts to tell me he's safe at school once he gets parked, he's never called. As a result, it was several words past hearing he was safe that I really started listening. Five police cars. Two fire trucks. An ambulance. As it turns out, the kiddo rolled up to a four way stop in a neighborhood at the same time local authorities were arriving on the scene of an accident at the house on the corner. So it was there, on his way to school down a path we’ve driven a thousand times, that the kiddo witnessed his first fatality complete with the all of the sounds and activity and gore that accompanies such a thing. I just sat there, mom. There was so much equipment coming from every direction... I didn’t want to get in the way.
On Wednesday our community learned we’d lost yet another teen to suicide and it was the kiddo that reminded me that not a year has passed since he started 7th grade that we’ve made it from start to finish without a fatality. Five years in a row, mom. Five years! When do people get a clue and starting fixing this mess? It’s been a tough week.
I don't know what you think but I'm going tell you the reality: whatever your kids are talking about is likely only a third of what’s really happening with any given situation. Leading psychologists and child welfare experts that have studied teenage behavioral patterns and bullying and suicide and mental health disorders and self harm behaviors all report that when your kiddo shares a situation, it’s highly probable you’re only getting about 34% of the whole story. It’s not that your kiddo is necessarily lying to you, which could be the case for some. Rather, it’s that between a lack of experience in sharing how they feel, “flooding”, which is a teen brain phenomenon that happens when kids become emotionally charged, distraction, and distance (time) from the event, you’re lucky if you get 34%.
As parents we need to hit our knees and pray for guidance so we can find better ways to connect with our kids because we’re losing children in communities all over this country at an alarming rate. They’re running and they’re making harmful choices and they’re hurting themselves and we don’t know until it’s too late because we’re working on 34% fact. It’s not enough. What we’re doing isn’t enough.
I taped CMT CrossRoads this week because I like Florida Georgia Line and the Backstreet Boys. While I know the kiddo likes FGL, I didn’t expect him to come upstairs while I was busting moves and singing at the top of my lungs to I Want It That Way. Sure, he laughed at me for second, then he kicked off his shoes so I followed his lead. Which is how we ended up breaking out our cheesy 90’s dance moves and jamming right alongside the music until the band broke into a ballad. And then suddenly it wasn’t about the music at all. It only took a few moments before we were both misty eyed, slow dancing in the kitchen in our bare feet, him pouring out his heart and processing a traumatic week and me reassuring him that we’ll always find a way.
Our kids may only be giving us 34% but they need to know we’re giving 100%. They need to hear that there’s always a way to handle a problem differently than the obvious. They need to hear that it’s never wise to make a permanent decision regarding a temporary situation. And they need to be reassured that we won’t stop trying to find ways to connect.