On keeping the faith

Recently, one of my teenage sons (18, finally embracing the power of his mind to deliver great school results) said: “Mom, how did you keep the faith? I mean, I would have given up on me. I mean, think about it: at 11 I was acting out, at 14 I was doing the drinking thing, and then up until 4 months ago, I wasn’t even doing my homework. If I was you, I would’ve lost faith in me a long time ago.”
My response: darling, you forget that I see you. I know you. So faith in you is inevitable.
Thinking about this conversation this morning as I voicenoted him to wish him well with his Maths exam, I thought of how much of our narrative about teenagers and children in general contains worry.
On the moms’ groups I’m on, the flavour of most of the posts ranges from mild worry (about minor infections and the like) to major worry (about peer groups, the internet of things, schoolyard bullying, teen sex, drug use and abuse…)
In the work that I do with young people, their narrative ranges from mild irritation with their parents (about restrictions related to dress sense and curfews and the like) to major depression (inter alia, about having felt for most of their lives that they need to keep themselves hidden from their parents or simply needing to keep their heads down to dodge the missiles).
Somewhere inbetween these polarities lives a place in which parents and children communicate openly. And children thrive through their misfortunes and poor choices and heartbreaks as they come back to parents who shine back at them a belief that they have all that they need inside them to make life work.
Somewhere else lives a place in which parents look at their children and say, like the fantastic Oliver Sacks, that they feel reassured by the generation to which they will eventually hand over the world.
I, gratefully, have children whom I admire and teach me things about myself and the world.
I, gratefully, have brave children who call me on my stuff and share their opinions (even the ones I really don’t like) freely.
I, gratefully, look at and listen to them and their friends and rejoice in the knowledge that we are sending beautiful, strong and wise young people out into the world who have everything they need inside them to make their and other lives better.
I hope all of you feel this way too.

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