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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Suicide

I've always wanted to be a mom. Always. And I always wanted to be the kind of mom who talks to her kids about anything. Any questions they have, I would tell them the truth. I would teach them the correct names for body parts- no "woowies" and "flub dubs" at our house. Only the right names. Knowledge is power.

I expected to talk to my kids about the dangers of drugs and drinking. Peer pressure. Drinking and driving. Sex. Puberty. Religion. Their diagnoses. IEP's. Death. Anything they have questions about, I was prepared to discuss. Parents help shape their children's view of right and wrong, the world, themselves. I know it's important for me to tell my kids what my views and opinions are so they have that knowledge, and as they grow can make their own decisions about things.

With my kids, I always walk on the side of caution when giving them information. I want them to have correct information, but not too much info that they're overwhelmed and developmentally not ready for the overload. I want to make sure they're mature enough to handle the information. I try to answer just their questions, without launching into a monologue of facts that they aren't really wondering about. When one of my boys asked about armpit stink, he wasn't asking for the whole Birds and the Bees talk, he was just asking why bodies change. I listen carefully to the question the kids are asking before I answer.

When one of the boys mentioned condoms while talking with his grandparents, I had to explain that condoms were not just used as water balloons on You Tube, and that it's not socially appropriate to talk about birth control with grandparents in the way he did. When my 7-year-old asked "What is ejaculation?" and his older brothers snickered with embarrassment and Daddy said "Ummmmmm..." and looked at me, I took a deep breath and launched into the explanation. Even this, I expected. Is it uncomfortable at times? Yes. But I just deal with it and talk about everything like it's no big deal (which really makes Daddy squirm, much to my amusement), just a fact of life that the kids are wondering about. My hope is that they feel they can come to me anytime, about anything, always.

Then there are things that I never in a million years thought I'd have to talk to my kids about in order to prepare them for life.

We've talked about how if the kids see a real gun at a friend's house, they are supposed to come right home. Don't touch the gun, don't play anymore, just come home and tell me. 

We've had to talk about why my 2nd grader's school had to have a lockdown. It was terrifying for him. Everything turned out safely, but the kids don't know why they need to huddle and be silent while the lockdown is happening. I used to pass schools and have a sense of warmth in my heart. All good things happen in schools. You learn there, you make friends there, you grow there. Sure, there are hard assignments and trouble with peers, but overall, it's a place that helps you grow and nurtures you. Now I pass schools and get a sense of the ominous, troubled people who might be inside, or outside, that might cause pain or death. I worry when my kids go to school about what will happen to them that day- will they do ok on a test, will they be teased because they have tics, will they remember to bring their book home, will they eat at least a little bit for lunch, will someone go crazy and try to shoot them? What is happening to this world when that is what you think of when you put your kids on the school bus in the morning?

Last week we heard about an 11-year-old boy who attempted suicide because of how much he was being bullied at school for liking a toy that is considered by many a "girl" toy. Ben and Jonah had heard about this boy and we were talking about it. I told them if they are ever bullied or teased for anything, they have to tell me or Dad. Nothing is worth dying over. The boys were sort of giggling because I was so serious about all of this. I finally said to them, with tears in my eyes, that I can imagine what it must be like for this little boy's mom and dad. I can imagine what it must be like to have a little boy who wants to die instead of deal with the hell that is his life every day. I told them this is serious. Don't you EVER commit suicide. TELL me what is happening and we will do every single thing in our power to help you and make you whole again. There is nothing you can't tell me. I will always be here for you, I will always walk to the ends of the Earth to help you. If you ever hear a friend say they want to kill themselves, it's your responsibility to tell a grownup, because you may save your friend's life. If you ever feel like hurting yourself, please please please just tell me. I will help you. 

The boys became serious and promised they would tell me if they ever needed help. 

This is not something I planned to have to ever talk to my children about.

But some families do have to talk about this kind of thing. The boys have a mood disorder. Tourettes. ADHD. Anxiety. Depression. One of them can be very angry. When he is raging, he is not thinking. What if he tries to hurt himself during a rage? One of them is very depressed. What if he just feels he has fallen so deep into his hole of darkness that nothing is worth living for? 

There are things that I don't want to talk to my kids about because I feel like if I utter certain words, then those dark, haunting, horrible things become a reality. If I talk to my 11-year-olds about suicide, then it's real that a boy their age tried to kill himself. If I talk to my 8-year-old about his lockdown at school, then it becomes a reality that there are crazy people out there who try to hurt innocent babies while they're at the one place they should be the safest. 

It would be easy for me to let my own anxiety control my life. I always say to Alex I want to move to somewhere where there is no one else around. No danger of people shooting you while you learn your ABC's. No danger of being bullied because you like a "girl" toy. I don't think there actually is a place like this, but I wish there was. I wish I could keep my kids all in my house, safe, until...I don't know when. Until the world is safer, I guess.

I realize that will never happen. There is danger everywhere, there are accidents that just happen, there is sadness. My exuberance for life will not let my anxiety for my children win. Even though there are crazy people and crazy things in the world, there are so many more incredible, amazing things. Just the fact that we're all alive and here and can make a difference- big or small- in someone else's life, that's a gift. 

So I just try to deal with the Kid Questions as they come. As we experience life together, I answer their wonderings as best I can, knowing my answers, like me, aren't perfect. But I just try my best. I let them know that in Real Life, bad things do happen. But good things happen too. 

When you think about all the things I've had to talk to the kid about, suddenly talking to them about sex doesn't seem so bad.




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