Last weekend tragedy stuck a local family. A 16 year old boy took his life, only 5 days before his 17th birthday. Let me be clear...I did NOT know this young man.
But his death has struck a chord within me and I can't seem to get him off my mind.
His step-mother and I share the same first and last name, and often have people get the two of us confused. I recently was introduced to her at the gym and we laughed about how people are always getting us mixed up. That introduction and the same name are my ONLY tie to this family.
And yet I can't get him off my mind.
This blog post is not intended to cast blame or responsibility on ANYONE. It is simply me getting my thoughts out.
Because of the same name, I received a few texts on Saturday morning. People were trying to determine if it was MY family that was dealing with the loss of a child. That's really when I started thinking.
I started thinking about how it scares the crap out of me that I am going to have a teenager in a few years....and how I realize how very quickly those "few" years are going to fly by. I then thought about how I was as a teen. And that's when it became clear to me....
As a teen, the things you experience and go through are VERY SIGNIFICANT to you. And as an adult, we often look at these teen problems and think "Oh, kid...if you only knew what REAL problems are". We forget that to them, at that point in their life, their problems are VERY real and VERY serious.
I think we get busy with our jobs, raising kids, making mortgage payment, helping ailing parents, and the rest of adult "life" that we forget how significant those teen problems/issues are when you're a teen. I thought back to the things that just completely set me off as a teenager....
They were really big and dramatic things to me at the time....like breaking up with a boyfriend....getting singled out from the group of friends and feeling like NOBODY cared....not having some material object that EVERYONE else had, and without it, my social life was surely over.....etc.
In my almost-40-year-old hindsight, those issues are so silly....so insignificant. But as parents, we HAVE to remember how incredibly significant and devistating they felt to US as a teen. Only then will we be better able to help our own children. I know I have downplayed problems that my own children have had, because as an ADULT I know that in a few days this issue or that problem will blow over and they'll be on to something else. BUT...I think that it is so very important to remember that downplaying our kids problems is not always the answer. We have to keep perspective that to them, at that point in their life, these problems are EVERYTHING.
Again, this blog post is in NO WAY casting the shadow of blame on ANYONE. I do not KNOW the family or what the situation was behind this young man's suicide. I just know that in thinking about the situation I felt like I had to make sure I was more aware of the seriousness of the problems our kids face. No, their problems aren't on the same level as job security, financial hardships, or any of the stressful situations many adults face. BUT...to a teen, at that point in their life, their problems are as stressful to them as adult problems are to adults. That is part of the way we learn.
We learn to navigate through life by dealing with issues and conflict...from the time we're very young until the day we die. Hopefully the tragedy that this family now faces will somehow help other parents to guide their own children. Hopefully we all will talk to our kids a bit more and listen even harder....hug them every day, and always make sure they know you love them.