“Help me, Mama!” my kids say so easily, willingly, trustingly. Help me slice my apple, tie my shoe, ride my bike. The words roll right off their tongues. Totally and completely confident that I will help them. With everything that I’ve got. And then some.
Asking for help is a skill. One that we all have when we’re young, when we need help to meet the most basic of needs. And today when Kayli, Chloe, Brody, Louie, the house, the finances, the schools tug at me mercilessly, I look at Jason and quite literally beg for help. But that took a long time for me to be able to do.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard to ask for help at times. Pride? Image? Control? Trust? Sometimes we pull ourselves up and out just fine. And sometimes we don’t.
Recently, there have been a frightening number of children, someones’ babies, taking their own lives because of bullying. Because of heartache. Read that again. Teenagers are killing themselves. Not being sassy with their moms. Not cutting school. And not experimenting with alcohol.
Because their day-to-day feels so overwhelmingly suffocating, cruel and hopeless that they can’t see beyond their high school or early college realities. They don’t know that these years are nothing but a small blip in the big beautiful spectrum of the rest of their lives.
These children felt alone. And that they had no one to turn to for help.
I look at the bullies. And the bullying. And resources like the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and texting. And how they’ve changed us. I look at kids who think that 500 people can really be their “friends” and who lose sight of what a “friend” really is. I look at kids who think that it’s normal to text while on a date and who lose sight of how to have a real conversation. I look at kids who think nothing of being cruel, humiliating or dismissive in a public forum and who lose sight of the social cues that tell them, teach them, beg them to know that they’ve gone too far.
I’ve been reading and reading looking for answers to hard questions such as how do you teach empathy? And consequences? And other peoples’ feelings?
If we’re “lucky” our children do ask us for help. Then what? Do we teach them how to fight back? Do we fight the fight for them? Do we change schools? Move? Ignore the problem? Pray that it will go away?
How do we teach our children to ask for help?
There are people all over this big beautiful world who are thinking about these very questions, these very children, and other children who might be feeling the very same way – alone, scared and helpless. Perhaps ironically, these beautiful people are sending messages of hope, solace and comfort to these children that they don’t know, using the very outlets and avenues that others have used to hurt and abuse them.
Why? Because my mantra has always been that my children will go down their path no matter what, so it might as well be with me right by their side. Except some of these kids are not seeing the path, knowing that it’s there for them. What if it’s my kid? What if it’s yours?
With time, I want to share these messages of hope with my children. To open up the dialogue, to show them how big this world is and how to reach out and find it. I also want to tell them now, while they’re still listening to me, that besides Jason and I there are trustworthy, fabulous people who love and support them. Other mamas, family friends, neighbors – people who will treat their hearts like the precious commodities that they are. So they never feel alone. Or helpless. Or hopeless. Not my children. And not yours either.
The last time that another mama’s tragedy struck me at my core and left me helplessly heavyhearted I tried to justify why I was sharing it with you. Not my topic. Not my story to tell. But you came back strong with the focus on parenting and children, learning from each other, how other people could be us, in a heartbeat. You talked about dichotomies and balance, treating others how we want to be treated and teaching children the same. You took my breath away by crying with me for one mama and one son. And just for a moment, we could all see ourselves walking in saddened shoes.
So this time I’m not going to scrounge for a reason to talk about this. With you. This is important as parents. As a community. As human beings.
Love your children and squeeze them to pieces until your heart feels like it’s going to burst. Then talk to them about kindness and empathy. Responsible Facebook-Twitter-You Tube-email-and texting usage. Teach them how to be a good friend. How to be aware of other people’s feelings. As well as their own. Teach them how to ask for help if (and when) they need it. Who they can turn to. And how. Because it does get better, but we need to get there first.