A Mother’s Reckoning

About six months ago at a district parent meeting, we were discussing teen suicide.  Our schools are working hard to bring awareness and help to parents, kids and staff about signs of depression.  The last week of school, a local high school (where Tobin is headed next year) had three suicides in a two-week period.  Devastating is not even close to how this community has felt.  How in the world could these young people decide that death is a better option that what they were facing in life?

My heart continues to keep coming back to the mamas of these babies.  These mamas who tended their children, watching out for the perils of life, teaching and instructing them how to cross a street and stay away from strangers only to have their child take their life by their own hand.

I find myself walking in those mamas’ shoes.  I have struggled with fear in such a real and tangible way.

I have a child who resides in two worlds–one side is a complete and total disregard for personal safety in the midst of rage and pain.  The other side is a contrite and sorrowful heart, filled with remorse, shame and pain.   As the mama of this child, I’m filled with angst and pain, wondering what the next moment will bring.

I have been pouring over Sue Klebold’s memoir – A Mother’s Reckoning:  Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy.  Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two young men who killed many people at Columbine April 1999, then committing suicide.  Columbine happened months after Matt and I married, just a 40 minute drive down the street.  I remember being utterly shocked as I watched the images on tv, in complete disbelief that something like this could be imagined let alone carried out.

This book has been filling my soul with hope.  This mama, Sue Klebold, shares the raw pain and grief, followed by anger and finally healing and a calling.  

As I read her words, I was struck with how ordinary her life was BEFORE.  BEFORE Columbine she was me, the mom who watched out for her kids, chose the best for them, wanted to protect them.  BEFORE Columbine she was like you and me, walking and talking, working and doing.  Then Columbine happened…

“Yesterday, my life entered the most abhorrent nightmare anyone could possibly imagine.  I can’t even write.” Sue Klebold

I was broken as I read this book.  Tears streaming down my face at times as Sue’s words came so very close to the deepest fears that reside in my heart.  I have a child who still does not understand the absolute depth of love in my heart for them.  There is constant questioning about their worth — is my love enough to keep my child safe from themself?

“Depression and other types of brain disorders do not strip someone of a moral compass, and yet these are potentially life-threatening diseases that can impair judgement and distort a person’s sense of reality.  We must turn our attention to researching and raising awareness about these diseases–and to dispelling the myths that prevent us from helping those who most need it.” Sue Klebold

I find myself going back to the first moments I held this child in my arms.  My love, surely, would be enough to help heal!  Yet, here I am, years later wrestling with deep fears of the “what ifs” for my child.  Just as a child with a terminal illness would receive medication and help, so should our children with brain illnesses.  The same battle we would fight for a child with cancer should be the same fight for brain wholeness and wellness.

People like Sue Klebold show such courage sharing their stories of deep pain. They understand that “one thing is certain, when we can do a  better job of helping people before their lives are in crisis, the world will become safer for all of us.”

Andrew Solomon says it so well in the prologue —

“Ovid delivered a famous injunction to ‘welcome this pain, for you will learn from it.’ But there is little choice about such pain; you do not have the option of not welcoming it.  You can express displeasure as its arrival, but you cannot ask it to leave the house.”

I’m wrestling today, at the arrival of pain and how I’m going to allow it to make a home in my house while not defeating me.  This, my friends, is a hard task.  One that had you asked me years ago if I’d be willing to do, I would have wrestled with my yes.  However, with great pain comes abundant joy.  The depths of the valley show us, so very often, the heights of joy and healing.  I’ve learned a lifetime of love with this child–and they’ve shown me the absolute depth of my love.

Thank you Sue Klebold, for courageously speaking your story, sharing the innermost parts of your thoughts and soul.  Your words bring courage and hope to so many of us who have children who experience brain illness.

 

Summer Lingering

I blinked and this school year passed.  I find myself telling our kids the very same phrases grownups told me when I was young.

Life moves quicker the older you get. Enjoy the moment, it is here and gone before you know it.  Soak in the moment.

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I’m sitting in this space of in between.  I now have a high schooler, a middle schooler and an elementary student.  Big chapters closed last week and we are in the phase of summer lingering.

In a few short weeks, my two oldest children will embark on some new big adventures. Caroline, our oldest, heads on a plane by herself to Honey Rock Camp in WI for three weeks.  This camp, part of Wheaton College, had a monumental impact on my life as a college student.  Caroline will be with other incoming freshmen for three weeks, learning about herself, her values/intentions and who she wants to be all while enjoying the amazing Northwoods!

When she was just a little toddler, I knew I wanted her to go to Honey Rock.  I’m stunned with just how fast this day has gotten here.  I keep thinking of my experience there–how my soul was filled to the brim while canoeing on the spirals of lakes and water.  Matt and I head to get her in early July – I can’t wait to be back to see the camp and hear her stories.

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Tobin heads to Eagle Lake overnight camp with four of his really good friends.  This year they are doing Adventure 1 – rock rappelling, high ropes courses, tunneling and so much more.

Mixed in the summer are times with friends, other camps, babysitting jobs, and so much more.

For me, interspersed in this summer is a big letting go. 

I’m caught in this bittersweet time of having a little one still–and trying to keep seeing the world through a second grader’s eyes while at the same time guiding and coaching my almost 15-year-old into a new world of freedom marked by other kid’s driving her (not parents) to social activities.

I see my two oldest children grow before my eyes.  Not only in height but in spirit.  They are spreading their wings and it’s my job to help them fly.  As a mama, I want to hold them close and keep them safe.

A few nights ago Caroline was out with friends – a double feature drive in movie down in Pueblo.  I woke up around 1 am with a start, got out the iPhone Find Me app, and was dismayed to see they were STILL in Pueblo at 1:30 am!  Trying not to be “that mom” (you know, the one who has helicopter rotors swirling in their hair), I sent a quick text “Hey, hope you’re having fun.  Text me when you’re back in the Springs.”

Then for the next 90 minutes I sat on our bathroom floor and watched the little iPhone icon inch its way back to the springs while I frantically prayed for protection over their car. I felt such angst as I sat there, knowing that this was exactly where she needed to be just as I needed to be where I was-finding change in my parenting.  Instead of denying Caroline the experience, I had to let her go and trust that the work Matt and I have put in is enough.  I had to trust that some insane drunk driver on Memorial Day weekend at 2 am wouldn’t be near my daughter’s car.

At 2:30 am a little ding when off, “Mama, we’re home.”

When I picked up Caroline from her friend’s house the next morning, I immediately hugged her and told her “THANK YOU for texting me.”  She looked at me and said, “Sure” as if it was the only thing she would ever think to do.

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I desperately want time to slow down.  I want to soak in every bit of these next four years with my sweet Caroline. I want to treasure the new horizon called Middle School for Tobin. I want to NOT forget that my sweet Desta is JUST starting out on the adventure of Second Grade.

I want to not worry each minute of the day that something tragic will happen to my kids.  I want to not worry that my children will succumb to depression, fear and anxiety.  I want to keep them close and wish the world’s darkness stay far away.  I don’t want them to experience pain, betrayal of friends, bouts of sadness and wounds of bitter and angry words.

However if I take my role seriously as a coach, I have to begin loosing my grip and letting them have these experiences.

Without wounding, one never knows the abundance of healing. Without the deep depth of pain, one never experiences the heights of joy.

So I adventure onward, towards a new “next step” filled with discovery of my children and most important, myself.