“The worst hurts your child experiences are the ones you can’t fix.” A sage piece of advice from a fellow parent with plenty of wisdom.
The first time my eldest child got really sick, I rang the same person for advice and through broken sobs reported that “If I’d known what it would be like when he got sick, I wouldn’t have become a parent.”
Pretty dramatic but sleep deprivation and a burst ear drum are pretty cruel bed fellows.
So 14 years later here we are again enduring a different kind of hurt. The kind parents earnestly hope to avoid but just like many aspects of parenting, enter into the foray knowing that one day, it’s another hurt our kids can’t avoid and by implication, nor can we.
A broken heart. A male’s broken heart. A young male’s broken heart. It’s almost too much to bear. He doesn’t want to talk. Not to me. Not really to his Dad. His dad says he’ll be fine, just leave him. But us Mums feel the need to talk things through,. I suspect we’re seeking reassurance to ease our own pain.
Accepting that for now, they really are not fine, is just a bit awful.
At times like this I pull out my dog eared version of Celia Lashlie’s He’ll Be OK a parenting survival guide really for raising young men. I bought it when he was just two. Felt a bit silly really at the fundraiser Celia spoke at in my home town, in my old school hall even.
Here I was surrounded by parents of stroppy teens while I was still navigating the basics. Surely it couldn’t be that dreadful I thought as the parents around me smiled, sniffled and nodded as one of NZ’s most respected social commentators shared her views on growing good men – a catchphrase promptly adopted by various boys’ schools around the country.
A unique mix of common sense, insight and practical advice peppered with wry humour made Celia Lashlie the go to raising boys guru for a generation of Kiwi parents.
The strongest take home message I gleaned that night was – Mums, take a step back. We need to let Dads step up and stop trying to fill in the gaps. Stop trying to make our boys talk before they are ready, stop trying to do everything for them. And stop expecting them to want to share their inner most thoughts and feelings with us. Because that’s not how they operate.
Years later I am starting to understand the importance of striking the right balance between letting them know you care and giving them space. Boys will talk but only when they are ready. And that could be 10pm at night right when you’re about ready for bed. Or in the car on the way to sports. Or walking back from the beach.
We just have to be patient, breath deeply and give them time to work things out their own way which is clearly not our way.
Because they will be fine. They will be OK.