Yesterday I had a discussion with my kids in the car. It’s amazing the ground we cover (yes, pun intended) while driving. It was a discussion filled with grief, love and healing. I would never have imagined talking with the kids about this years ago. But oh, how things change!
I shared with them how I had been thinking about Mother’s Day 7 years ago. The one when they came to visit me in the hospital. That was the only time I saw them during my 2 week stay. That was the hardest Mother’s Day that I can remember. I saw my kids in the hospital lobby for 15 minutes supervised by a nurse. Their father and his mother looked on with drawn faces and tears in their eyes. The kids showed me their homemade artwork and took turns sitting on my lap.
I wanted to hold them and stay in that moment forever, everything seemed OK for those 15 minutes. But I knew there was more healing that needed to be done and we would have to say “goodbye”.
Even though they were very young at the time, ages 7, 5 and 3, they remember. We all do.
And so we talk about it. We talk about it whenever it comes up or someone wants to talk about it. We remember, we process, we grieve, we learn, we understand and we love.
Many people would caution against sharing such intimate and mature details with children siting all types of reasons as to why talking about it could harm them. That’s OK, because we all have to go with what feels right to us as individuals. For me, openness and authenticity as age appropriately as possible, has always been my path.
I used to worry incessantly that everything I did would scar my kids and drive them to a therapist’s office. Now, I know that everyone bares scars from their childhood, it’s just how it goes. All of my children either are or have been in therapy and I hope and pray that they will continue that for their lifetime.
I heard a long time ago that one of the most detrimental things parents can do is hide their wounds and scars from their kids. I had to chew on this one for a while.
“How can this be true?
“I need to protect my kids as much as possible.”
I have had a change in belief. I see now that for me it is a mistake to hide the messy, hurt and scarred parts of myself from my children. I believe that they will either see right through me, because we all know that children are extremely perceptive, or they will think I’m perfect and believe their supposed to be perfect too.
I don’t like either of those options!
Instead, I want them to know and see that I am fully human so they can have permission to be human too. I want them to know that there is no such thing as perfect here on this earth.
I don’t want secrets in our home and I strive to cultivate an open and accepting atmosphere so that when things come up, we all have freedom to share with each because that is just what we do.
I recently heard an interview with Dax Shepard and how he handled his sobriety relapse with his two young daughters.
“When I relapsed, we explained, ‘Well, daddy was on these pills for his surgery and then daddy was a bad boy and he started getting his own pills,’ ” Shepard said. “We tell them the whole thing.”
I absolutely love this! Even though my children have more information and first-hand experience with some big topics that others their age may not, I believe they have really benefitted from it. They see me for me, as a real person, not a portrayal of what I want them to see. This has opened the door to more intimate, trusting and authentic relationships. This has also taken so much pressure off of me. I can be me with my kids and ditch the mask.
An atmosphere of safety and acceptance is being created within our family and for all individuals. My children have compassion and understanding that serve them as they navigate this world.
So, would I choose to struggle with my mental health? NO.
Are there silver linings to it? YES.
Comment below if you would like more authenticity and intimacy in your relationships!