For me, Mother’s Day was always a day to reflect on how I see myself in my parental role and paying homage to the beautiful family that I helped to cultivate. This year, more than ever, I go into this occasion with many mixed emotions. I’m profoundly in touch with my fear and hopelessness.
Being a mother and therapist, I find myself to be in a precarious space. I’m not privy to healthy denial, which we sometimes all need, because it’s nearly impossible for me to shelter myself from some very harsh realities which negatively impact our children. I observe it daily through the work that I do. It’s in my face.
I observe the increased anxiety and depressive rates among our children, I get the memos about the kids who are showing up to emergency rooms with suicidality or have successfully followed through and suicided while they are away at school or otherwise, and very often hear how incredibly overwhelmed, overworked, and fearful our youth are.
Undeniably, I had to experience the occasional fire drill at school. Most kids didn’t take it very seriously because we knew the chances that we would have to implement it were very unlikely. Today our children must participate in and memorize the lockdown drill. They know that there have been 35 US school shootings this school year. Their fear is genuine and legitimate, they take the lockdown drill very seriously, and they know that there’s no room for error.
My daughter once came home from school and recalled how her teacher mistakenly didn’t lock the door during a drill. She remarked how she didn’t feel safe with this teacher and worried what would have happened if there were a real encounter with an attacker.
Hate crimes have also increased and are on the rise. The days when my parents naively reassured me that “it can’t happen to you” are long gone. Even if it weren’t truly the case, we’re denied any words of comfort that we can even offer our children. Our vulnerabilities are showcased and displayed throughout our social media 24/7. We can’t hide or deny any of it.
There are so many articles circulating about our heroes during the last horrific attacks spanning in less than two weeks. There were incredible heroes from the San Diego attack on Chabad of Poway, the hatefulness at UNC Charlotte, and from our most recent atrocity in Colorado at the STEM School Highlands Ranch.
While this is where the recognition should be, rather than on the perpetrators, I wonder what gets processed by our children. Do they worry about how they would react if they were in that position? Do they feel compelled to “put themselves out there” because they think that’s more favorable and it’s the way they “ought” to be even if it’s dangerous and developmentally they may be too young to make a sophisticated decision like that?, or Do they get so overwhelmed with their mixed emotions because of being angry with the perpetrators, sad for the victims, and proud of the heroes, that they just repress all of their feelings?
This year I’m left feeling like I want to validate and apologize to my children for all that they are hearing, witnessing, and exposed to.
I want to say:
I’m sorry that you’re inundated and overwhelmed most of the time with distractions that don’t allow you to just be.
I’m sorry that your social relationships are so complicated by social media influences. I see how those influences impact me too and can only imagine what that must be like for you because life for me as a kid, however challenging, wasn’t as complex.
I’m sorry that people aren’t willing to understand and embrace difference.
I’m sorry that you may not want to talk to me about how you are and how you’re feeling, because you’re right, we were born in very different generations, and sometimes it’s hard for me to truly “get it.”
I’m sorry that I worry so much about you which leads me to sometimes jump to conclusions and go to a judgmental and paranoid place because of being untrusting.
I’m sorry that I may sometimes overwhelm you by often checking in with how you’re feeling, I know all too well how repressing, harboring, and avoiding feelings eventually catches up and wreaks havoc on a person’s physiology and psyche.
I’m sorry about your reality of being exposed to so much cumulative violence and trauma. I’m also sorry about the impact it is directly having on your parasympathetic nervous system, as well as your cognitive and psychological development.
I’m sorry that you witness so much hatred among people. I’m also sorry that it gets so much emphasis and that the everyday love and kindness among people gets muted out in the process.
I’m sorry that not enough swift and forceful action is taken on every level to secure your safety at school.
I’m sorry that the current education system is dictating that academics are of primary importance, even at the risk of your mental and emotional health.
I’m sorry that the current education system neglects to integrate social emotional learning and mindfulness to help you manage your feelings, increase your coping skills, and help you deal with all that you’re currently trying to manage.
I’m sorry that I sometimes exhibit anger and frustration instead of getting in touch with my disappointment and sadness over all that you’re going through.
Finally, I’m sorry that I can’t shelter you from all of this. Know that if I could, I would do absolutely anything to keep you safe. I love you more than words can explain. Posted on Psych Central.