When safe isn’t safe enough

As parents, we are constantly trying to protect our kids from everything in the world that will hurt them.  We buckle them and double-check their seatbelts are on correctly.  We make sure they have helmets on when they are riding bikes.  We teach them how to look both ways before they cross the street.  We stop them before they do something stupid.  But, as parents, we can’t always anticipate what might come.  And that’s why I write tonight.

Working with the tween age group isn’t easy.  Whenever I tell people what I do, they call me a saint.  There is so much they struggle with.  And today, I saw that firsthand.  We had a crisis situation where a tween said they wanted to kill themselves.  They had already taken steps to start the process.  Luckily, we were able to intervene in time, and this person is going to be okay, after getting help.  But why didn’t we see the signs?

No one knew.  We saw this person every day, and no one knew.  I remember thinking that with a friend of mine in college.  We knew she was depressed, but with us as her supports, we thought we could help her through it.  Meeting her, you would never know it:  every time you saw her, she was smiling; in every picture, she had her arms around a friend, laughing, joking.  Due to her background and ethnicity, she was too proud to seek professional help.  Her parents had practically disowned her, and she was struggling.  Then, one night, she went out for a drive on a busy highway, got out of her car, and ran in front of a truck.  I got the call late that night, and we had no idea just how bad it was until it was too late.

When I struggled with my own depression and postpartum, it was bad.  There were times I knew it was bad, and times I couldn’t come to terms with it, but luckily, my husband intervened before it got too far.  I can’t even imagine how it must’ve felt for him to have to hear the things he heard from me.  But he stuck with me, didn’t let me quit, and I have come a long way.

But I’m scared.  I am afraid of something that you can’t control.  I can’t protect my kids from themselves.  I can provide them with the tools they need to try and be successful, safe, and helpful in life, but I can’t prevent them from feeling down.  I can put parent protection codes on everything, limit screen time, monitor their friends, but I can’t ensure they will follow everything I tell them.  I can be there, but I can’t be everywhere.  If I can’t protect them from themselves, who will?

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