I see you

Mental health

I’m rereading a book I read when I was about 16, The Catcher in the Rye. If you took refuge in books as a teenager, then you probably know about Holden Caulfield and his beef with ‘phonies’; they were mostly adults, and they were mostly bullshitting him.

If your parents or the adults in your life are disengaged, then being a teenager sucks. That age is so tender. They are children, they are starting to look like adults. Their brains are exploding with childish things and grown up things and hormones, and everything else. If old man time gave me a free pass to go back, I wouldn’t. I suffered intensely. In fact, my brain froze on teenage mode all the way through my 20s and even beyond, because I didn’t mature properly. The reason I didn’t, I think, is because I didn’t feel ‘seen’. I wanted so desperately for an adult to understand even an iota of where I was coming from. But they couldn’t.

I wonder can I give this to my children – I really want to. What do I mean by being ‘seen’? (It sounds bloody awful, doesn’t it? Like something from a compulsively cheesy American TV drama.) I mean: That they feel loved for who they are, no matter what. That they feel adored for the ‘bad bits’ as well as the good bits. Actually, that they never learn there is such a thing as ‘bad bits’ within the young self. There aren’t.

I try to watch my language with my children. I try to say things like oh that’s naughty behaviour instead of you are a naughty boy. I read it in some parenting book somewhere. Do children pick up on such nuances of language? I don’t know. I’m winging it like everyone else. I tell them I love them, a lot. I hope that whatever I’m doing, that by the time they are teenagers in a few short years, they will still be talking to me. Really talking to me.

I really hope that by then, I will have given them the tools to slash through the confusion that settles in adolescence. I want to show them that most of humanity is not phony, but utterly glorious in its inescapable spectrum of joy to sorrow, ugly to beautiful – and utterly reliable in its passage from darkness to the surety of light.

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being stable as a parent


Meditation, Motherhood

‘You, the unstable, must become a tree’

This is what we have to do as parents.

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter where you are, how often you have messed up, how many bad choices you have made, your roots come down when you have children. You stop letting the wind carry you here and carry you there. You stop looking over your shoulder.

You are the shoulder.

Before my three babies arrived, I was like a dandelion clock. I was fragile. I let life blow me around on its violent and gentle whims. I allowed my past to fully dictate my present, like a childish bully desperate for attention.

In the long months after my first son was born, as I clawed my way through a dark and stifling cloud of post-partum mental illness, I began to understand that I had to get stronger. A lot stronger.

I started to meditate.

By increments – and it took a few years – I started to see that the strength was already there. It is there in all of us. The tree had been planted. All I had to do was let it grow, let the good green leaves breathe in the cold fresh air. Sense its solid, immovable trunk. Observe its leaves fall and peek out again triumphantly, marking Spring. I already was the tree.

So are you.