The other side…

On what should have been the first day of summer vacation I attended the funeral for a 13-year-old little girl. It was for a young girl in a neighboring community.

It wasn’t a student I knew personally, but through her I could see and feel the sorrow of hundreds of middle school children who suffer and are sad. They just can’t see beyond the hurt of today.

I wish she could have seen the church today. Full, no overflowing, with people there to love and remember her. I wish she could have felt the love for her in that church.

It breaks my heart to see so many students and teachers on what should have been the first day of summer, saying good-bye to a classmate.

But the saddest part of today is that she couldn’t see beyond her current pain to get help, reach out, or to understand that it will get better.

Every day I work with children and families to try to help them through the middle school years. I don’t have any secrets or magic answers, but I always try to give the kids some perspective and tell them that it does get better.

Adolescence is hard. It was hard when we were kids, but the challenges and pressures that these kids face are so much harder. The media certainly doesn’t help. Nor does the constant access to peers, friends, and total strangers who are all trying to convince them of something different.

teen species

It takes a very strong teenager to stand up to the hype, and not many of them can do that on their own. Then with 2 parents working, or only 1 parent at home and working, the challenges are compounded. The support system is flawed at best and non-existent at worst.

Life is hard. But to all those adolescents out there, it does get better. You will have to work at it to make it better. Surround yourself with people who build you up and care about you. Find activities that make you feel good about yourself. Stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Be gentle with yourself, mistakes happen, learn from them. And when it feels like you can’t go on, find someone to talk to. When it feels like you are all alone, don’t be. Reach out to someone. There are people out there who care about you. There are people who understand what you are going through, and have made it to the other side.

Father’s Day

dad-fatherA friend of mine sent me a message this morning that said “Happy Father’s Day. You are both mother and father to your boys.”

What is the difference? Are moms the caretakers while dads are the disciplinarians? Hence the infamous line: “Wait until your father gets home!” I like to think that we have gone beyond many of the stereotypical mother/ father roles of homemaker vs. breadwinner. I think many families I know have created their own roles for mother and father.

So while celebrating father’s day, I got to thinking: what does it take to be a father? Beyond the obvious medical definition, what does it really mean to be a father? One of the definitions on dictionary.com is: “One who cares for another as a father might.”

So, what does that mean? How might a father care for a child?

Neither of my boys have their dads in their lives, but I don’t think they lack for a “father”. There are plenty of people, both men and women, who love them enough to care for them “as a father might.” Friends, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, who have played the role of father for them.

Those who have roughhoused with them, and those who have hugged them.

Those who were there when they got hurt, telling them to shake it off or helping them up.

Those who have laughed and joked with them, and those who have supported them when others laughed or joked at their expense.

Those who have given them “fatherly advice” and those who have just let them talk.

Those who take the time to tell them when they are wrong and celebrate with them when they are right.

Those who care enough to worry about them, and love them enough to make a difference in their lives.

I think a father is all this and more.

I developed a very different relationship with my father through his love for my sons. It has been an enormous blessing for us to grow in this way.

When I look at my boys on this father’s day, I hope they take the best parts of the “fathers” they have had in their lives and use the wisdom and the love they have been shown, to become the best dad’s they can be to their own children.

Happy Father’s Day to all those people who are “fathers” both biological and otherwise, in name or in heart. And especially to those who have been fathers to my boys.

Relationships

I work with junior high school students. There is one student who I have worked with quite a lot this year. I have been working with her on helping to help her deal with a difficult situation that she faced last year. But sometimes, I think she’s the one helping me.

We were talking today about the abusive and controlling relationship she was in last year. She has worked hard to get beyond this relationship and learn to trust again. But she is currently having a disagreement with her parents about the concept of dating and they are telling her that maybe she shouldn’t be dating at all. Her response to me was that she shouldn’t be punished and not allowed to date anymore because she dated the wrong guy.

As often happens, our conversations typically stay with me long after we have finished talking. I am divorced, actually I’ve been divorced twice and I have just started thinking about dating again. I tend to be a little bit (ok, probably a lot) negative about dating and relationships just assuming that I am not very good at it and I have a bit of a defeatist attitude.

But as I began to reflect on my conversation with this student today I thought that maybe it wasn’t me, but that I picked the wrong guy (s). I shouldn’t “punish” myself or not date again, just because I messed up in the past but that maybe I should give myself another chance and try to learn to trust again.

So rather than give up completely on the idea of finding companionship with someone and closing myself off before really giving it a chance, maybe I need to take a chance on relationships and give myself another try at finding the right guy or at least being open to the idea.